When The Purge was released back in 2013, I bet writer/director James DeMonaco had no idea he’d be setting up a pretty nifty little horror franchise, similar to the way James Wan’s Saw first broke into the mainstream. While I liked the first film, I wasn’t a big fan of the second, but I loved that DeMonaco utilized election year to his advantage to indirectly make his film relevant, so when I sat down in the theater for the third installment, I was eager to see how The Purge: Election Year would unfold.
Set two years after The Purge: Anarchy, Sgt Barnes (Frank Grillo) has become the head security guard for Senator Charlene Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell), a strong candidate for the presidency after her declaration to get rid of the annual purge. With Roan as a serious threat to the current regime, the New Founding Fathers decide to eliminate all immunity rules to allow for the assassination of the Senator to be legal. After being betrayed, it’s up to Barnes and a few new friends to keep Roan alive until dawn while roaming the streets of DC so that she has a chance of becoming the next President.
The Purge: Election Year is a much more enjoyable film than the second. It’s intense, it’s unrelenting and, on occasion, even smart and pretty funny. Deli shop owner Joe Dixon (Mykelti Williamson) is the comedic relief while Laney Rucker (Betty Gabriel) manages to surpass Barnes in the bad-ass category on occasion. The film follows the Deli storyline which eventually connects with the senator. This allows for a group protection storyline which helps propel the story in a new direction, one that becomes more ideology focused more than anything. The constant battle between killing NFA hitmen and their leaders versus utilizing Roan’s tactics of living among the people, disregarding real security measures and not allowing certain people to die is, as a viewer, a struggle to watch.
The most interesting part of the film is how The Purge has become more of background noise the way the zombies are in a show like The Walking Dead. Outside of seeing people tortured or killed in passing, the killings during The Purge got very little attention except for the deli scene. This movie was an assassination/chase film more than it was a Purge film and I think that’s why a movie like this can continue onwards. Think of how the Fast and Furious franchise evolved, if a film can keep what makes the original awesome but evolve the storyline into other areas, you’re typically going to end up with better results without feeling like everything was rehashed.
The film isn’t perfect by any means but my gripes with the film have more to do with the annoyance of certain characters and the occasional blip of terribly funny dialogue. One of the villains of the movie, a psychotic teenage girl, comes back to the deli to get revenge after the shop owner refused to let her steal a candy bar. All of her menacing dialogue had to do with breaking into his shop and getting her candy bar. Seriously. The first two times it was funny, but after the fourth time she said it the idea became obnoxious. As for hating certain characters, Senator Roan was wrong on so many occasions that the fact she managed to live after the first attack was amazing. The thing is, the attacks don’t stop and even after everything that continues to happen she doesn’t’ change her ways at all. To me this could one, be a testament to her strong willed character or two, she’s just an idiot who doesn’t learn from the past. It was very frustrating for me but I do understand the rationale of the script.
Overall, I was a fan of The Purge: Election Year. I may have gone into the theater angry and wanting to see people die on screen but, even if I wasn’t, that wouldn’t have stopped me from leaving very satisfied with the mix of action, gore, and twisted horror that unfolded before my eyes. I’ll be curious to see if this is the final film in the trilogy or if they’ll find a way to keep it going, either way I’d be happy.