“I Purge because it’s my civic duty..” Alright old man, no one believes you’re in the streets slaughtering people, go back to bed.
As a young girl, Sen. Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell) survived the annual night of lawlessness that took the lives of her family members. As a presidential candidate, Roan is determined to end the yearly tradition of blood lust once and for all. When her opponents hatch a deadly scheme, the senator finds herself trapped on the streets of Washington, D.C., just as the latest Purge gets underway. Now, it’s up to Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo), her head of security, to keep her alive during the next 12 hours of mayhem.
Films like The Purge, and the ensuing sequels that followed, are more culturally relevant now than ever. With a “gong show” primary campaign, that has embodied everything inapt with modern society, The Purge: Election Year arrives on the precipice of a proverbial crap storm of epic proportions. In a unique position to capitalize on current events, The film even goes so far as to include raw footage and news reel regarding violence at Trump Rallies. Director James DeMonaco and production company Blumhouse, have created a franchise based on a fascinating premise that plays on the psychosis of the common man. It offers a visceral and instinctive look into the moral compass of society, and asks the viewer to step into a rabid world where all crime becomes not only legal, but is advertised as a moral and civic duty, for people act on their most barbaric compulsions. The original Purge, barely explored it’s massive concepts and condensed itself into a clausterphobic home invasion story. The Purge: Anarchy, finally expanded the series scope and granted us passage to Purge night on the open road in Downtown Los Angeles. Now, The Purge: Election Year has ushered in a new sociopolitical climate in an attempt to appeal to viewers by evoking some of the same visceral reactions that American politics have, over the course of the last few months.
The Purge franchise has done well to utilize an intriguing premise, and found a way to keep it lively over the course of two films thus far. What the first two installments attempt, is essentially an action horror that uses the idea of the Purge as a backdrop, realizing that it’s depths were to remain shallow at best, and opting for tension and action in lieu of avid character development. Blumhouse and DeMonaco knew what they had and didn’t try to stretch beyond their very basic reach as filmmakers. The Purge: Election Year is the first full misstep on the series, as DeMonaco attempts to build upon its predecessor’s success, but creates an indefensibly foolish and dimwitted political thriller. It’s an honorable attempt, but ultimately falls far short of its lofty aspirations. This entry ratchets up the commentary on economic inequality, though boorishly so, to a degree that becomes sententious. While Election Year fails as an intelligible social commentary, it succeeds as sadistic dystopic nightmare emboldened by lavish visuals of carnage artfully crafted. DeMonaco manufactures some genuinely disturbing scenes with a relentless intensity that maintains throughout. This will certainly satisfy the viewers bloodlust, as a myriad of tasteless violent acts coat this film red with blood. Election Year, despite its attempts, provides little more than innumerably frantic displays of savagery.
As acting goes, this film is not likely to offer any revelatory performances. The characters are skin deep and hollow as can be. Few of the performances can be described as more than pedestrian, but Frank Grillo does his best to ground the film and keep it from entering ultimate camp status. Each character represents a separate demographic, from Middle class caucasian (Senator Sloan), to Immigrant searching for the American dream (Marcos). There is little subtlety in the battle of the classes story implemented, and the acting is reflective of the poorly fleshed out narrative. The underlying theme is the war waged against the poor from the upper class division touted as the “New Founding Fathers” or NFFA. Each individual in the NFFA is more mustache twirly than the last, and are as sociopathic as any in this story. The writing, and particularly the dialogue, is truly odious at best. This is a the layman’s version of a much more competent politically based account. The message here is not debatable, DeMonaco seems to be on a crusade against perceived tyranny and vocalizes it in every single scene, sometimes laughably.
The first two films in this franchise succeeded as a sort of condemnation of the basic human condition and lack of morality when allowing for inhibitions to be completely cast aside. Election Year revels in the lust for carnage. On top of the politically charged commentary that elects to adhere to a particular ideological agenda, the film also proceeds to condemn christianity. It goes so far as to produce its climax in a christian church filled with sociopathic patrons praying to let the slaughter of unarmed hogtied individuals be there purification. The opposition to the liberal senator in this film is in fact a priest. This reprehensible ignorance is boldly displayed unapologetically, and is not done intelligently enough to captivate, and will almost certainly alienate its audience. This film becomes the least compelling of the franchise, in spite of having the same constant sense of dread hovering over it’s run time. The glorification of violence takes center stage, and this becomes nothing more than a gory mess of bombastic action. Election Year attempts the dissection of contemporary issues, but it’s gratuitous and dense in it’s narrow minded vision of dystopian culture, and becomes an endeavor for audiences to endure rather than enjoy. There is an audience that will appreciate the horror aspects of this entry, and will enjoy the film as a mindless addition to an established franchise. For the rest of the movie going public, they will likely exit the theater either offended, confused, or apathetic towards a film that fails to provide any insight into its complex messages or subtext.
2.35/5 Do Better Bro