The Purge has always been an extremely in your face franchise. The first Purge, to paraphrase MovieBob, was a brilliant idea that was utterly wasted on a silly home invasion movie. It’s sequel, The Purge: Anarchy, (remember Yahtzee’s formula from Independence Day: Regurgence) took the basic idea and setting and turned it into a graphic, intense, revenge action flick. Frank Grillo starred as Sergeant Leo Barnes, part Urban Rambo part Charles Bronson-Death Wish style baby. It was a massive improvement over the original, and par for the course was extremely over the top with its themes and graphic violence. The third sequel, The Purge: Election Year, wisely follows in its predecessor's footsteps by continuing to focus on Leo Barnes and using the extremely tense current (2016) election year as its political backdrop.
In the world of The Purge, there was a political revolution in the United States sometime in the near future and The New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA, a far right wing political party), take power. The NFFA institute a day called The Purge, that allows any and all crime, including murder, to be legal for a 12-hour period. This ostensibly allows for the country to release its social angst, rage, depression, etc. But obviously the poor, disaffected, old, and minorities will be most at risk in this system (they can’t afford the armed guards, high-tech security systems, or even the best weapons). This allows the New Founding Fathers to keep getting richer and eliminate the people they would have to take care of on welfare, food stamps, Medicare, etc.
The Purge: Election Year attempts to have its blood-stained cake and eat it too. The film proclaims, “My God! This Purge is horrible, look at all this ghastly graphic violence and disturbing imagery, isn’t it horrible (and entertaining wink wink)? The Purge must be ended!” Honestly, I don’t have a problem with that tactic because the film is at least entertaining. The Purge: Election Year sees the return of sergeant Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo), now the head of security for a hopeful and popular senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell). Roan is vying for the presidency against the NFFA chosen pick, Minister Edwidge Owens (Kyle Secor). The powers that be in the NFFA think that the senator is getting too close to actual power and decide to use this purge night to take her out. Thus Leo and the senator must fight for their lives as the government and crazed lunatics attempt to kill them on Purge night.
The film is pretty uneven and tends to stall a bit in its second act particularly when focusing on a subplot revolving around a small business owner, Joe Dixon (Mykelti Williamson), and his deli. He loses his Purge insurance the day before the Purge and vows to protect his deli against obnoxious would-be shoplifters from the day before. Even after the two plots are merged, Joe has a fervently insane desire to go back and defend his deli. This is despite all evidence and logic clearly indicating that it's an ill-advised, dangerous, and downright suicidal move. This is even after the most pressing threats have been neutralized. Furthermore, there are clearly bigger priorities than his deli, like protecting the senator (aka the literal physical manifestation of hope regarding an end to The Purge) and staying alive.
There's really no way to say this without sounding like a creepy weirdo, but the writer and director James DeMonaco seems to be running out of fantastic set pieces and ways to injure, maim, or murder your fellow man. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of graphic disturbing images and murders in this film, but it seems like DeMonaco is being held back by his need to tell an over the top satirical political story. Most of the fantastical, or crazed ideas are in the background or featured in passing montages. Interesting ideas like murder tourism, Purge insurance, and gladiatorial style matches are shown or mentioned in passing. Anarchy was focused on Leo’s personal revenge that got distracted by a government conspiracy but still went out of its way to deliver intense kills, action set pieces, and political satire. In Election Year, the entire film is about the government conspiracy, which gives it a more grandiose feel, but feels a bit repetitive.
The Purge: Election Year isn’t as bad as it’s predictable. The film promised graphic, disturbing violence and over the top rhetoric on politics in America, and it delivered. It touches on the racism, classism, religious fanaticism, and gun violence inherent in American society and espoused by this far-right political group. It’s uneven and over the top, and can get bogged down with its political messages but still delivers plenty of tense violent action. The ending also seemed to put a pretty solid ending on the franchise as a whole. Then again, this is Hollywood, so I’m sure they’ll try to squeeze more sequels out of the property somehow.
TLDR: The Purge: Election Year is a hyper-violent and on the nose satirical look at a near future dystopian United States that is defined by one day a year in which all crime is legal. 3/5 Stars
Chipman, Bob "MovieBob" "The Purge: Anarchy-Original Idea Done Better."Escapist Magazine. Defy Media, LLC, 18 July 2014. Web. July 2016.