by Coop Cooper
‘The Purge’: A fictional U.S. holiday in which one day out of the year for twelve hours, all crime – including murder – becomes legal. The first film from “The Purge” franchise set up an intriguing dystopian idea and merely touched on its implications, but resulted in little more than a slightly above-par home invasion horror flick. The sequel, “The Purge: Anarchy” took the mythology and ran with it, showing the scope of this brutal holiday from a city-wide perspective. “The Purge: Election Year” further expands the franchise to include some fascinating ideas behind the politics of “The Purge” on a nationwide and global scale.
After surviving the events in “Anarchy”, Leo “The Sarge” Barnes (Frank Grillo) has since become head Secret Service agent to the upstart Senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell), a fellow Purge victim who is the last remaining member of her family who was slaughtered during the holiday eighteen years prior. Roan, a liberal presidential candidate, is running on a platform of ending the annual Purge for good, and only trails slightly behind in the polls from her conservative, pro-Purge opponent, Minister Edwidge Owens (Kyle Secor). Seeing Roan as too risky of a threat, the ‘New Founding Fathers’ led by the sinister Caleb Warrens (Raymond J. Barry) decide to lift the ban on targeting politicians during The Purge in order to legally assassinate Roan. Betrayed by her own people, Roan and Barnes must survive The Purge while being pursued by both murderous citizens and white supremacist mercenaries hired to deliver Roan to her public execution.
My initial reaction to the original “The Purge” was lukewarm, but I thought it was a brilliant concept that could really deliver if the mythology was explored. “Anarchy” accomplished this spectacularly and “Election Year” is a worthy bookend to the trilogy. There is so much to like here: The scary, grotesquely patriotic costumes/masks worn by the purgers (plus their weapons, traps, and methods), the fact that foreigners come from overseas in participate in ‘Murder Tourism’, the way society treats this as normal… It’s far-fetched, but if you look at it as a horrific ‘what-if’ fairytale, the idea holds up.
To be brutally honest, this is a far-left fantasy that fears what would happen if the far-right were to gain control and run amok with racism, warped religion/nationalism and capitalism. It insults the intelligence to a degree in how evil, evil, EVIL the one side is portrayed, but the storyline does play fair in portraying the far-left radicals as being in the wrong as well. No one in their right mind in America should believe that this could happen… And yet it is currently happening in other countries. Some of the more lawless parts of Africa, Central America, Asia and the Middle East (especially Syria) come to mind. One of the more heroic characters in the film claims to be refugee from Juarez, Mexico. When asked how he knows how defend himself so well, he says something to the effect of, “In Juarez, this (The Purge) happens every day.”
What this film does best is give you strong, sympathetic characters to root for. There is the tough but genial shop owner, Joe (Mykelti Williams) who wants to protect his convenience store from the out-of-control millennial school girls who want revenge for catching them shoplifting. There’s his faithful, grateful employee Marcos (Joseph Julian Soria) who considers Joe family and wants to protect the shop to save his job. There’s Laney (Betty Gabriel), a former gangster/purger who now patrols the street during The Purge with an armored ambulance to give aid to the injured innocent. Their heroic roles in this story really give you someone to root for, especially when the Senator Roan and Barnes falls into their laps.
“Election Year” covers a wide array of issues, including how insurance companies rip off customers during the event, how indoctrinated the selfish, younger generation is into the mindset of this holiday, how it plays into the economics of the country… It’s all very clever and timely.
While the end of the film hints at the end of the franchise, I don’t see why they have to stop. For one, I’d like to see how something like this could have started… A prequel to show us how bad the country had to get in order for society to accept something as abhorrent as this holiday. Since the creators of this franchise seemed to take my suggestions word-for-word in my review of the original film to make a far superior sequel, maybe they will read this review as well. If they are listening, maybe they will like my prequel title suggestion: “The Purge: Year One”.
Get it made, folks.
Rating: 4 and ½ out of 5 stars