The film is set in the near future where all crime is legal for one night a year, and writer-director James DeMonaco’s sequel takes the action from a suburban home to the streets.
“It’s taken the premise of what the original Purge was, I think the premise was great, and for three or four million dollars the movie was also kind of interesting, but I think what the film does now is it really executes James DeMonaco’s idea, the premise about The Purge, but it does it in a really interesting way,” he tells us.
“Much like the way The Warriors was a film about a journey. Like the old Death Wish films, and ’60s and ’70s movies with an antihero, it’s similar to that and by design. That’s what James DeMonaco and I wanted to do.”
Grillo plays the lead, a man who takes to the streets on Purge Night with a single goal in mind.
“My character is a guy who, during the prior year something terrible happens to his family,” he explains. “This family is destroyed, breaks up, and it’s a year later and he’s basically got one thing that he wants to do and that’s get retribution for what happened to his family and that’s the Purge Night. So my character takes the audience out of the suburban house and now we’re travelling through the streets of the city.”
“I remember seeing the first one and thinking ‘Wow, this is a great idea, but it’s kind of just muddled just being in the house,'” Grillo tells us. “When we sat down together and they asked me if I was interested, I said ‘You know, this could be a very neat way to kind of turn the genre upside down.’ Because it’s not really a horror film and it’s not a straight action film and it’s not a straight thriller, you could just kind of redefine what this genre is and also in between, it can be an intelligent movie, it doesn’t have to be any one of those things. And we worked really tirelessly to do it, and we didn’t have a lot of time.”
The social commentary still plays a part in the film, and as Grillo comes across a band of survivors who needs his help, the moral ambiguity of his antihero comes into play. “Some of us are not doing things…moralistically it’s ambiguous what we’re doing, and it’s really questionable but [DeMonaco] makes these people, you feel for them,” he enthuses.
The Purge: Anarchy is the latest in a series of increasingly high-profile roles for the actor, who has gone from strength to strength in recent years. From Warrior to The Grey to End Of Watch, right up to Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Grillo has been climbing the ladder and he tells us that he couldn’t be happier with the results.
“Yeah, part of it is because my agents at CAA they’re the ones who said ‘Be patient, take the smaller roles with the better directors that you respond to, don’t do bad stuff for money. We’ve got to bring you up slowly.’ And my argument is always ‘I’m old. This shouldn’t be happening to me. I want to take advantage!’ he laughs.
“And they’re like ‘You’re not old, there are no rules, slow down and let us guide you through this, and through quality. Small roles in great films, you’ll get the attention of the proper people.’ And they were right, I probably would jumped at three or four other movies before I would have done say End Of Watch. You know? And they made me do it and they were right. So now I’m in a position where they trust me and you work hard and you do a good job and it keeps coming, there’s momentum. So more and more the bigger studios are coming around and I’m grateful every day.”
The Purge: Anarchy is released in cinemas 25 July.