“The Purge is Halloween for adults!”
For me, The Purge is one of those surprising little films that defied a lot of expectations. Lumped in with a load of crap *cough*horror*cough* films, it was quite unfairly labelled as another cheap shocker designed by studios to maximise profit.
Now I’m not saying that it wasn’t like that; I’m just saying its a bit unfair. For all its faults, The Purge was actually a really fun, reasonably well put together little movie that built a brutal dystopian vision for the future with some wholly original ideas and confidence in what it wanted to say.
That was 2013. One year later, the sequel upped the ante in every aspect. The Purge: Anarchy took Purge night to the streets and made it a social and political satire that starred diet Frank Castle, played by Frank Grillo. Both he and this sequel blew us all away and quite rightly has been brought back for the third in the trilogy, The Purge: Election Year.
The young survivor of a Purge night that saw the rest of her family killed, Senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell) has worked tirelessly to get where she is today. A presidential nominee running on a platform with a strong anti-purge message, the senator has made some powerful enemies getting here. Not least of all, she’s pissed of the people that invented The Purge, the people that have been living off of the money generated by it, the New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA).
When the senator gets closer to the White House than the NFFA would like, they decide to use the cover of The Purge to do something about it. Changing the rules of their own game to make it OK to kill politicians, Roan has definitely had the cards stacked against her this year. Luckily, her ace in the hole is Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo) the man that not only survived the purge the year before, but has personally found salvation on purge night. The former police sergeant has to fight against odds greater than he could have ever imagined to keep her alive.
The Purge, as a series, has never had subtlety on its list of traits. Its satire is like a sledgehammer to the groin when it gets to its point and this third entry in the series may be the meatiest sledgehammer yet. In an actual election year where Americans get to choose between a woman for President and a semi-psychotic orange badger with a god complex, the lady vs the establishment isn’t just obvious, it’s basically been advertised as the presidential race we all want to see.
From the beginning writer and director James DeMonaco has had something to say. He’s pushed the point that the poor are true targets of the purge while the rich swim in the money generated by it. But here, everything that the media shows us has a metaphor – for want of a better word – on screen. And it’s all anti-Donald Trump.
Redneck, gun toting Neo-Nazis in hunting parties chasing the senator; crazy foreigners inviting themselves to the country to enjoy the rights and freedoms of Americans; kids, teenagers, who have been brainwashed into thinking this is the right way to go about things and an entire country blindly defending their “rights”. Nothing is off limits in this dialled-up-to-eleven sequel.
The problem with that is while this film is pushing its agenda at you, whether you agree with it or not, it is screaming very loudly without actually saying anything of real substance. Plenty of “Black Lives Matter” references and all the images of old white men trying to keep the status quo they created isn’t going to make your point for you if there isn’t real substance to your movie.
That’s not to say it’s a bad film, far from it, but a couple of black guys mowing down a gaggle of purgers all dressed like former presidents draped in red, white and blue not only doesn’t quite make the point you were hoping for, but takes a lot away from the actual fun of the film.
But overall, The Purge: Election Year is a very good film when it allows itself to have its fun and just have its cool concept put on screen. It’s a roller coaster. I can even get behind its preachy message and none-too-subtle support for getting a lady president when it kicks its action up a notch, getting back to the action thriller roots we love so much. But mainly, I just wanna watch Frank Grillo kick ass, take names, and kick a little more ass. It’s what made the sequel so great, turning it into a low budget Punisher flick, and those are the best bits of this three-quel.
In the grand scheme of things, I would say this latest Purge film does a lot of what its predecessor did right, even if it is starting to wear a little thin. Not as good as the second film, but better than the first, Election Year is a fun, if slightly overlong and over preachy addition to the Purge series. If, as I hope it is, this is the last one, then it’s a fitting end to a series that has been a ton of fun to watch.