We’re now on the third movie in “The Purge” series so you should know what to expect when going into a “Purge” movie. It’s going to violent, a little sloppy, crazy, insane, have disturbing imagery, gore, be over the top and (depending on your sensibilities) fun. If you don’t like “The Purge” and “The Purge: Anarchy” then let me make this review simple for you “The Purge: Election Year” is not going to sway your mind. Now for me personally the complete lunacy makes “The Purge” series a fun B-movie pleasure of mine. There are many criticisms that you can levy against the series (and this entry as well) but it doesn’t take away from my enjoyment of this (now) trilogy.
The first “Purge” I was initially disappointed by because I thought the premise could lead to some interesting possibilities but it failed to deliver upon any of them. Yet I still felt myself drawn back to the movie and found myself re-watching it again. By that point I realized the movie’s strengths and the sequel “Anarchy” I thought continued its own trend and while making a bit more promise on its premise while still staying in B-movie territory. “Election Year” is no different and at this point it’s sort of unfair to expect anything else.
So what’s the story here? Does it really matter? Well the story of “The Purge: Election Year” is as it sounds, it’s the Purge and it’s election year. An up and coming Senator running for President promises to end the one night a year where all crimes are legal in America (at some point someone had to run on that platform). Frank Grillo returns from the previous movie (who has a name, Leo Barnes, but let’s face it you’ll be saying Frank Grillo) as a bodyguard for the Senator sworn to defend her. The New Founding Fathers though aren’t giving her a chance to become President. They hatch a plan to use the night of the Purge as a way to kill her.
That’s the main storyline of the movie. There is a subplot involving a shop owner and a “Purge medic” that eventually crosses paths with Grillo and the senator in the streets. This movie sort of combines parts of the past two movies. The movie does have a home invasion sequence that kicks the events of the movie in motion. And then they go back to what worked much better in “Anarchy” by setting most of the events in the streets. There is some improvements made to the “Anarchy” model with showing more Purging going (there were some pretty empty streets in “Anarchy”) and it does delve a little more into the underground rebellion that is brewing.
Now like the past two films I had a fun time watching this movie. It never has a shortage of thrilling action scenes. Frank Grillo is really a large reason why this movie (and the past movie) works so well. His presence really carries the movie and his earnest acting is almost inspiring. I found myself wanting more actors like him in the rest of the series. Don’t get me wrong I like some of the cartoons and over the top performances some of these actors produce but I did find myself missing some more grounded performances. If this series wants to continue I really think it needs more actors like Frank Grillo and Ethan Hawke in it because if you start going too over the top well then you do start to hurt any credibility your series might have left.
With this “Purge” being titled “Election Year” (and we as a country being in the middle of a pretty turbulent presidential race) writer/director James DeMonaco injects more political sentiments into the film. Slowly the series has been increasing its amount of political discussion and here DeMonaco allows a lot politically symbolism and beliefs be shown on the screen. Granted DeMonaco isn’t very subtle with his presentation but then again “The Purge” has never been a series known for its subtle nature.
Aside from that my only criticism of the movie is DeMonaco seems especially sloppy as a director this time around. And look, no one ever praised “The Purge” for being a well made production but more so than the previous two movies did I notice some mistakes. I noticed some very bad ADR (Automated Dialog Replacement) and some horrible camera shots that my film teacher would have crucified me for. Perhaps DeMonaco just thought he didn’t have to try as hard with this movie (or perhaps there wasn’t enough time built into the schedule to plan out their shots more).
All in all though I came in expecting another “Purge” movie and that’s exactly what I got. While I still think this series could have been so much more I am still happy and enjoy what I am getting. These movies remind me more of older John Carpenter films (while admittedly not being nearly as good) than your standard Blumhouse horror production. The movie clearly sets up what the fourth Purge should and (more than likely) will be about. I would like to see Frank Grillo come back and for newcomer Elizabeth Mitchell to also return (and maybe somehow get Lenna Heady from the first movie that would be a dream). These movies do show though you don’t need 200 million dollars to make an entertaining film. To be completely honest I was more invested in the showdown between Frank Grillo and the white supremacist militia leader (played by Terry Serpico) than I was when the aliens attacked Area 51 (again) in “Independence Day: Resurgence”. So, someone is doing something right.