THE PURGE: ELECTION YEAR
R, 105 mins.
2016, R, 105 mins.
Frank Grillo as Sergeant Leo Barnes / Mykelti Williamson as Joe / Liza Colon-Zayas as Dawn / Joseph Julian Soria as Marcos / Edwin Hodge as Dante Bishop / Elizabeth Mitchell as Senator Charlie Roa
Written and directed by James Demonaco
THE PURGE: ELECTION YEAR – the improbable third film in the improbably popular futuristic sci-fi/survival/horror series – is absolute trash.
But it’s highly entertaining and reasonably well oiled trash.
not one of those pompous windbag film critics that refuses to allow myself
to enjoy sensationalistic B-grade cinema that looks and feels like it
belongs in a grungy second run 1970’s drive-in.
As a thoughtful satire and parable of our current socio-economic
and political times, THE PURGE: ELECTION YEAR is too on-the-nose with its
force-fed brand of patent obviousness. However,
as a piece of no-nonsense, unapologetic, and uncompromising rough and
rugged exploitation cinema, there’s simply no denying this film’s
slick and perverse efficiency.
franchise’s sick, twisted, but kind of ingenious premise remains in this
new film: In a not-too dystopian future America came under the control of
the new “Founding Fathers,” a group of politicians that ushered in a
new era of prosperity (unemployment and crime reached near zero per cent
They did this primarily by enacting “The Purge,” an annual
12-hour event, during which time all crime is legal.
Bay’s continued film career? Legal.
Through the years The Purge became a juggernaut success, which its
chief architects believe allows for American citizens to cathartically
release their deeply rooted inner demons, thereby assisting their health
and productivity as contributors to society before and after The Purge. Now, this all begs a lot of logical questions: Why would
anyone stay in America during The Purge?
Why not get on a plane and take a 24-hour holiday in a foreign
country that doesn’t have the event in order to ensure your survival? Also, how do the unrelentingly blood thirsty Purgers not
commit heinous acts pre and post Purge?
How are they able to shut off these deplorable impulses?
I’m reading too much into the series.
The first entry in 2013 sort of
waged a war within itself. It
wanted to be a compellingly rendered examination of societal violence and
gun control while, at the same time, yearning to be an ultra sleazy John
Carpenter styled home invasion schlockfest.
The follow-up entry THE PURGE:
ANARCHY was much more finely tuned in the sense that it
wholeheartedly embraced it shameless luridness with a real gumption.
THE PURGE: ELECTION YEAR proudly continues this series’ ever
escalating senselessness to the point of achieving macabre camp value.
Any attempts to ground this story are thrown to the curb.
ELECTION YEAR is a wondrously disturbing romp that continues to
deliriously exploit its premise for all its worth.
Like its direct predecessor, this film wears its depravity like a
badge of honor. The never
look back tenacity of ELECTION YEAR as an putrid engine to mortify us is
kind of embarrassingly commendable.
everyone in this film's world loves The Purge.
One of these brave and enlightened souls is Senator Charlene Roan
(Elizabeth Mitchell), who is running for president on a daring platform to
end The Purge once and for all once elected.
Of course, the vile and despotic leaders of the Founding Fathers
want none of this, mostly because they secretly use The Purge to eradicate
the poor one per cent in order to save money on health care and welfare.
You also know that these Founding Fathers are indeed vile and
despotic when one of them refers to the presidential hopeful as a word
that rhymes with “hunt,” which all but cements their sleaziness as
villains early on. With the
senator becoming popular, the FF go into action by – why, of course!
– hiring a white supremacist militia to hunt and kill her before she be
elected…but they’ll have a very difficult time doing this, seeing as
Charlene’s right hand man and head of security is Leo Barnes (Frank
Grillo), returning from ANARCHY and still ready to defend himself and
others from damn, dirty Purger scum.
YEAR…I dunno…just kind of goes for it with reckless aplomb; it has no
pretensions about what kind of film it is, what it’s trying to do, and
what kind of audience reaction it’s trying to elicit.
And yes, this is trash cinema that's trying to be about something,
to be fair, even though its communication of said messages are laughably
broad and eye rollingly heavy handed at times.
You could easily draw parallels with Charlene versus the Founding
Fathers as a riff on the whole Hilary Clinton versus Donald Trump
presidential race, not to mention that ELECTION YEAR clearly has a lot on
its mind about the uber righteous, ultra Christianized political base of
the Founding Fathers that solemnly hold up The Purge with the collective
zealot like fever of a fire and brimstone pastor.
And there’s a lot of talk in the film about how The Purge is
essentially an all out war on the have-nots of America.
ELECTION YEAR’s thematic sermonizing is about as subtle as a
baseball bat strike to the cranium.
ELECTION YEAR doesn’t get too bogged down in taking its speech-ifying
seriously. Ironically, for a
film that preaches an anti-gun and anti-violence message, it’s really
all about assaulting viewers with grotesque sociopaths in nightmarish
Halloween get-ups that savagely go in for their yearly murder-death-kill
fixes…and the poor desperate souls that try to defend themselves as best
they can from these heinous fringe society beasts.
The performances of the key heroes are kind of
thanklessly credible considering all of the hysterically barbaric nonsense
that surrounds them. Frank
Grillo is in pure dependable mercenary mode and displays yet again why
he’s slowly emerging as a reliably gruff and authentically tough and
lethal action hero. The side
characters are a hoot, like FORREST GUMP's
Bubba himself, Mykelti Williamson, as poor and down-on-his-luck convenience
store owner that hates The Purge with a passion (insurance companies are
taking men like him for everything they have by increasing insurance
premiums to ridiculous levels on Purge Night Eve) and is not afraid to use
assault rifle justice to defend his honor and his store.
He also rather amusingly serves as the audience surrogate voice of
reason in the film, frequently commenting on the madness that ensnares him
and his allies (“Sorry for having to say this out loud, but what the
fuck just happened back there?”).
I was frequently asking the same question all throughout watching
I’m a bit embarrassed by how much I enjoyed this movie. Yet, I’ll never apologize for liking it. THE PURGE: ELECTION YEAR culminates towards a ludicrously over-the-top finale involving the fanatical FF (mostly frothing at the mouths and speaking in borderline tongues) trying to ritualistically sacrifice Charlene on a church altar that literally has to be seen to be believed. It was at this precise point where this series as a whole fully understands what it is and just joyously goes for absolute ape-shit crazy broke. On a level of sadistic showmanship, THE PURGE: ELECTION YEAR is a decent success; it’s greasy, unhealthy, and cheap fast food cinema that nevertheless goes down reasonably well. It’s certainly not a fine course fillet mignon meal, but as a piece of Big Mac grindhouse fare, the film’s agreeably tasty in just the right dosage…but only with the right frame of mind/appetite going in.
THE PURGE: ELECTION YEAR proves that not every film that works has to be an elegantly crafted dish. Trashy junk food can be enjoyable as well.