The Purge: Election Year (2016)
The Purge: Election Year (2016)

Genre: Action and Horror Running Time: 1 hr. 45 min.

Release Date: July 1st, 2016 MPAA Rating: R

Director: James DeMonaco Actors: Frank Grillo, Elizabeth Mitchell, Mykelti Williamson, Joseph Julian Soria, Betty Gabriel, Terry Serpico, Edwin Hodge, Brittany Mirabile

 


 

I

f the first film was a home invasion movie, and the second an all-out actioner (along the lines of a zombie adventure), this third chapter gets right down to the nitty-gritty of the sadistic escalations possible in a murder free-for-all. And it puts politics (portrayed as little more than a religious cult of the super affluent) at the forefront, demonstrating how hypocrisy, the division of classes (and creeds and ethnicities), and the enormous rift in financial statuses can be abused in something as outlandishly fictional as a night of consequence-free murder. But even with the heavy propaganda angle, there isn’t a lot of fresh substance to the overly brutal thuggery.

18 years ago, Senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell) watched her whole family get butchered during a Purge night. Since then, she’s been campaigning for the anti-Purge sentiment, which has finally reached an impactful level of influence on the population for the upcoming election. Her supporters realize that the current leadership group, the New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA), has been routinely using the annual killing event (in which most crimes are legal for a single, 12-hour period overnight) to wipe out low-income families – leading to profits for the NRA and rich legislators, along with plenty of other societal advantages over poorer citizens. And, of course, the Purge is just a generally nasty, unsupportable grotesquerie.

Leo (Frank Grillo), who lost a son long ago and nearly caused his own senseless destruction in a Purge retaliation, is now the head of security for Roan in Washington, D.C. His task becomes far more difficult when the NFFA leaders enact a new rule that revokes protection for Level 10 government officials – designed specifically so that Roan can become a convenient casualty, thereby cutting off the opposition head (“a spring cleaning” of sorts”) – as well as when Roan insists on remaining unhidden during the night, so as to avoid the loss of potential votes. Meanwhile, the legendary Laney Rucker (Betty Gabriel) – a formidable purger with a sense of honor – cruises around on Purge night as a vigilante policewoman in a mobile triage unit, occasionally stopping to help people (and also carefully selecting when not to intervene).

“It’s Purge night – you don’t sneak up on black people!” This extraordinary opportunity to release anger and lose one’s grip on humanity has attracted large groups of foreigners into the country to experience a wholly American tradition – in an amusing new industry called “murder tourism.” If U.S. audiences weren’t xenophobic enough, this film might just push them over the edge. And, in a second humorously believable twist, Joe’s Deli (run by Joe Dixon [Mykelti Williamson] and his employee Marcos [Joseph Julian Soria]) has its Purge premiums exponentially upped by an insurance company the day before, forcing the owner himself to take up arms to protect the little grocery store he works so hard to maintain.

The details surrounding the Purge have grown more and more interesting as the series attempts to answer all the questions that audiences have come up with over the last two entries. And here, the political implications couldn’t be more timely, especially with the growing discontent for the establishment, coming to a head in the real Presidential election this November. The film even throws in a drone for that extra positioning in modernity. The intricacies of revenge or anarchy or paid assassinations or just the thought of offing a nagging spouse are also examined again, this time with greater commentary on the psychological and sociological intimations, along with feelings of contempt and exasperation by working men from rigged systems of government.

But even with all the thought-provoking material and societal statements that abound, this film still exists primarily as a violent horror picture, intent on satisfying bloodthirsty audiences with scene after scene of death and destruction. A group of rebellious teens go entirely overboard in their zealous mania (in one of the most ridiculous subplots), while booby traps and random acts of carnage are always visible in the background. And it seems that Purge night is also an opportune time for elaborate Halloween costumes, which appear highly impractical for serious killers. But in the end, it’s also an excuse for some cathartic comeuppance against clearly evil elitists (and some immature psychopaths), very much deserving of the kind of fantasy retribution envisioned here – though it all goes off in a pretty extreme tangent the closer it gets to the climax. The biggest problem, of course, is that most of this was covered in the previous episode, making this whole affair rather repetitious and not nearly as thrilling.

– Mike Massie

  • 3/10