2 July 2016 | dave-mcclain
"The Purge: Election Year" is the deepest and most entertaining, but most overdone of the trilogy.
2016. A presidential election year. Both in reality and on the big screen – with high stakes AND what seems to be an increasing amount of insanity working its way into the process. 2016 marks the second time the GOP is lead by a candidate mainly known for his accomplishments as a businessman, the third time with a candidate named Clinton heading the Democratic ticket – and the third time for a story about an annual 12-hour period at the beginning of spring during which all crime is legal – even murder.
As many questions as have been raised by the first two iterations in "The Purge" film franchise, writer-director James DeMonaco (accomplishing the rare feat of creating three movies in a single horror series) manages to find even more questions to ask in "The Purge: Election Year" (R, 1:45). For example, might such an annual event attract foreigners who would like to get away with murder for a night? (Yes. They're called "murder tourists".) Does insurance cover property against purge night destruction? (Yes. But they might hike up their rates at the last minute, even beyond what people can pay.) Is it possible for a politician to turn back the clock and end the annual purge? (Maybe. But it wouldn't be easy.) Senator Charlene "Charlie" Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell) is an Independent candidate for President running primarily on a promise to end the purge, mainly because of seeing her entire family murdered on an earlier purge night. She has the backing of a guy who actually has her back, her head of security, former police Sergeant Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo), who was stopped from nearly carrying out a revenge killing on a more recent purge night and now hates the brutal tradition almost as much as Roan does. Although there is a growing anti-purge movement, including a group led by Dante Bishop (Edwin Hodge, the only actor to appear in all three of the films), there are a lot of powerful people who want the purge to go on.
On this purge night, the usual ban against killing high-ranking politicians is lifted. That puts Roan's life in danger. It also exposes the NFFA (New Founding Fathers of America) to being targeted themselves, but they have the money to hire plenty of security with plenty of firepower. When the NFFA turn their considerable resources against Roan, she finds herself on the run in the streets of Washington DC, trying to survive the night so she can (hopefully) win the election and make this the last purge night ever.
As the usual purge mayhem unfolds around them, Barnes and Roan are saved from certain death by deli owner Joe Dixon (Mykelti Williamson) and his loyal employee, Marcos (Joseph Julian Soria). With their help and the help of purge night triage vehicle operator Laney "Little Death" Rucker (Betty Gabriel) and (later in the movie) Bishop and his followers, Roan and Barnes just might survive the night
but it won't be easy and it may cost the lives of some of the main characters. NFFA leaders like Caleb Warrens (Raymond J. Berry) and Minister Edwige Owens (Kyle Secor), Roan's opponent in the presidential election, have money, influence, superior technology and ruthless thugs like Earl Danzinger (Terry Serpico, looking like an evil Anthony Michael Hall) to help bring their nefarious plans to fruition.
Like the pervious "Purge" movies, "The Purge: Election Day" is surprisingly entertaining and deep. The first film explored the idea of income and class inequality taken to extremes, but it just felt like an interesting one-off. A 2014 sequel added more action – and made the franchise's theme more obvious (especially late in the movie), while adding the subplot of growing popular resistance to the purge. The third film throws its message right in the audience's face, but what it lacks in subtlety, it makes up for in even better story-telling. The plot is multi-faceted, but not overly complicated, and features some interesting twists along the way. Some of the characters are over-acted, parts of the script are unnecessarily crude and there's a distracting amount of blood and gore, but "The Purge: Election Day" gives Movie Fans plenty of engaging action and biting social commentary. "B"