The Purge: Election Year Review
The Purge films have become something of an anomaly. Based on the potentially interesting and slightly ridiculous premise of an America where for one night every year all crime is legal, the first instalment in 2013 starring Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey was little more than a vague set-up for a typical home invasion flick. Then 2014’s The Purge: Anarchy actually did the impossible; it was a sequel better than the first one and actually used its premise to its potential and told a story about The Purge rather than just using it as background. Now series writer-director James DeMonaco rounds off the reported trilogy (although the box office numbers will determine that more than anything else I imagine) with The Purge: Election Year. Or maybe the better title would be America If Trump Is Elected.
Presidential candidate Senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell) has one goal in mind for her campaign; to end the annual Purge once and for all. In response to this the New Founding Fathers, the conservative political group who control the country and initiated the Purge to begin with, arrange to have her killed on Purge Night to eliminate her as a threat. Luckily on Roan’s security detail is Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo), hero of the previous movie, who makes it his mission to keep the Senator alive until morning. Along the way they cross paths with other people out on Purge Night, including Joe (Mykelti Williamson) a shopkeeper and Marcos (Joseph Julian Soria) his employee attempting to protect their store, and Laney (Betty Gabriel), a friend of theirs who works to bring medical attention to people caught in the chaos of the night.
There are a lot of words that can be used to describe this film, but subtle definitely isn’t one of them. The Purge: Election Year isn’t a film about quiet political or moral debates; it’s a film where gangs set up fight rings with medieval weapons, teen girls run riot with blinged out assault rifles and wrap their cars in Christmas lights, and people build guillotines in alleyways to chop off heads. It’s a film where its main character Leo is introduced in super badass slow motion despite only walking down a random corridor at the time. The main villains of the film send a neo-Nazi strike team covered in white power patches and swastika tattoos to assassinate their political rival and chant bastardisations of Christian scripture underneath vaguely fascist banners before murdering people. So to reiterate; there is no such thing as subtlety here. Yet there is something just entertaining and charming about this film in a really trashy way. It’s cinematic junk food, and that is not meant as an insult. Of course it all falls apart if you start thinking about it, but this is a film that you watch to enjoy the well done action and schlock with a few surreal creepy moments thrown in, and that is all you want and need from it.
However, even though it is in no way deep, this series is very much of this time. The release date for this latest instalment is completely deliberate, as is having a prominent female Presidential candidate. Although whilst Hilary Clinton is in no way a real life political paragon, Senator Roan very much serves as the film’s moral centre and it is great to see Elizabeth Mitchell giving the character her all. Other current issues are referred to such as Black Lives Matter, immigration and healthcare, and the power of the white 1% over the majority of American citizens. It’s a curious factor, and one that is fairly unique to this series.
So come for the concept, stay for the action, and be surprised at a rare thing; a horror series that actually gets better with each sequel.