a critiQal film review The Purge: Election Year (2016)

Plot: It’s been two years since Leo Barnes (Grillo) stopped himself from a regrettable act of revenge on Purge Night. Now serving as head of security for Senator Charlie Roan (Mitchell), his mission is to protect her in a run for president and survive the annual ritual that targets the poor and innocent. But when a betrayal forces them onto the streets of D.C. on the one night when no help is available, they must stay alive until dawn…or both be sacrificed for their sins against the state.

699 words (Est. Reading Time 3m 29s)

After being disappointed with the original (and not much happier with the sequel), we still pushed our way through to The Purge: Election Year. Since the beginning, The First Purge (2018), is headed to theaters in just a couple of days, we just had to wrap up with this finale (?) of the series first.

Of course, The Purge: Election Year has been building anticipation since the original. With that Emergency Broadcast System warning that officials level 10 and above are exempt, everyone knew there would come a time when they weren’t. But, would this film live up to the anticipation? Or would it devolve into just another middle-of-the-road pic?

Frank Grillo returns from The Purge: Anarchy (2014), this time as head of security for the anti-establishment presidential candidate, Elizabeth Mitchell. Again, he assumes pretty much the same role of protector as he did in the second film, and does about a good a job with it here. Elizabeth Mitchell takes the place of the damsels in distress from the previous film, and in the film’s quieter moments, does do a decent job in her role. When The Purge: Election Year picks up the pace, however, despite early promise, she devolves into just another helpless female.

Thankfully, there’s a decent cast behind Frank and Elizabeth in The Purge: Election Year, with Mykelti Williamson and Betty Gabriel standing out from the crowd. While Betty stands out as really the only strong female in the entire series throughout the course of an entire film, Mykelti, unfortunately, is misused. While his character has lots of potential, he gets stuck with all of the racially motivated lines, and, like all of the black people in this series, has a bit of a murky past.

In The Purge: Election Year, the people have finally discovered that *gasp* the Annual Purge is around simply to eliminate the poorest section of the population – those that the government feels is relying on them for support. Apparently, the people is this so-called “alternate reality” are stupid, as it takes them 18 years to finally put this together. And, apparently, now the “New Founding Fathers” (who created this annual death-fest to begin with) are working with a proud hate group and no one blinks an eye.

Anyway, aside from the blatant good vs evil theme (a white blond vs a bunch of evil white-haired geriatrics and their racist army), The Purge: Election Year has to incorporate not just a blatant jab at the (then) current political system (it’s a surprise one of the evil geriatrics doesn’t have orange hair) AND toss a skewed poke at Catholicism into the mix. It makes for a bit of a mess of a film that runs a bit longer than it should.

While the characters are decent enough, and the storyline for this part has been building since The Purge (2013), The Purge: Election Year also showcases how lazy these filmmakers have gotten. In a series that has showcased gruesome acts of murder like a visually disturbing slideshow, this film steps it up with everything from a guillotine down a side street to a disturbed teenage vixen vowing death and mayhem because she didn’t get to steal a candy bar. While the first two films already had to fight against this ridiculous backstory of an approved night of murder, this one tosses in foul language, racial slurs and even more over-the-top violence even while attempting to be a more serious action thriller.

While the first film was a weak attempt at a closed-room horror, the second film played as a middle-of-the-road action pic. This film, having not succeeded in really scaring anyone in the first two films, tries to go for an all-out attack on the senses…and doesn’t succeed any better than either of the other two. Like it’s predecessors, The Purge: Election Year takes a decent setup and turns it into a film that won’t really impress anyone who watches it.

It is certainly trying to get your attention, but it’s to stir up controversy (and therefore hopefully more dollars) than to tell what could of been an interesting story. It’s too bad really, as underneath all of that filth, there could have been a much stronger film.

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