The Purge: Election Year Director: James DeMonaco Screenwriter: James DeMonaco Cast: Elizabeth Mitchell, Frank Grillo, Mykelti Williamson, Terry Serpico, Betty Gabriel, Joseph Julian Soria, Kyle Secor Distributor: Universal Pictures Rated R | 103 Minutes Release Date: July 1, 2016
The focal point of The Purge franchise has been to address the seriousness of the gap between the two social classes of the rich and the poor. It’s a reflection of sorts that has terrifying results in which a newly rebooted government has established during an annual event there will be 12 hours during which any crime committed will not be punished. Though this day known as The Purge has brought crime down, it has disenfranchised those who could afford insurance coverage from looting and property damage, and protection from those who take advantage of being able to kill without consequences. So even though blood is constantly being spilled throughout the films, there is a very serious social issue that director James DeMonaco is trying to get across to the audience. While he may have successfully gotten that message to audiences in The Purge and The Purge: Anarchy, The Purge: Election Year doesn’t quite fall flat, but it doesn’t take full advantage of the timely politically charged election campaign themes, nor does it make use of misappropriating religion.
Okay so, maybe that part isn’t entirely his fault. After all, DeMonaco couldn’t have known that we would have a madman running for President or that we would also have a female presidential candidate. If he had, this surely would have been a different movie. But the reason why Election Year has a slightly more political tone to it is because it is revealed that The Purge has been used as a method to wipe out the lower class, thus putting an end to government aid like welfare and food stamps, which in the end means that the New Founding Fathers could pocket the money.
However, Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell) is the independent presidential nominee who seeks to put an end to The Purge by running on a platform that speaks to the victims of it, as well as to those who have been disenfranchised because of it. At her side is secret service agent Leo (Frank Grillo), who has taken the protection detail because he believes in what she says. He’s obviously come a long way since the events of The Purge: Anarchy.
Meanwhile, a mom and pop shop convenience store owner Joe (Mykelti Williamson) is forced to fend off looters on his own when his Purge insurance premiums suddenly spike. With the help of Marcos (Joseph Julian Soria) and bad-ass EMT Laney (Betty Gabriel), they will try to survive the night, until fate brings Roan and Leo to them. And then it becomes a mission to protect Roan from the New Founding Fathers who want to kill her, and have hired their own mercenary service to ensure that it happens.
As in any film with a political slant, there is bound to be political themes that reflect the current times. We see that religion and immigration are one of the biggest topics that have taken the forefront of today’s political atmosphere, and yet, DeMonaco doesn’t even go deeper than just to say that Marcos immigrated from Mexico City in order to seek a better life and Euro-trash want to experience the thrill of the kill for themselves. Then there is the religion angle the film has where a Minister (Kyle Secor), who is also running for President, and his congregation pays reverence to a God they believe has blessed them with the gifts that the Purge gives them. They are merely an exaggerated form of those who practice religion.
Aside from the jump scares and brutal killings, The Purge: Election Year is easily the weakest of the franchise. While it still has a lot to offer, it never reaches its full potential only because it seems so interested in upping the killing ante and filling its blood bank. What made the previous films work so well was that they had a message to convey and they delivered it with a cinematic twist. Now, it wasn’t entirely undone. Our heroes have solid performances, Grillo is back as Leo and he gritty as ever. Mitchell is the stubborn pacifist who believes that she should earn the presidency honestly, and you’ll find out what that means when you watch the film. As for our supporting characters, Williamson, Soria, and Gabriel, they all provide solid performances.
Of course, there are other characters who weigh the film down. Namely, the scantily-clad school girls who have a sweet tooth whose vocabulary is clearly lacking, to say the least. Again, while it is supposed to be a representation of the current situation, it seems that the film can’t get past the ugly stereotypes.
There is a certain shock when you see the kind of violence that you do in this film, which is no surprise. The violence is extravagant and over-the-top, and The Purge: Election Year will do more than just satisfy that thirst for blood fans seek in horror movies like these. But because it doesn’t take the risks and submits to having caricatures, it is the kind of film that lacks all that drama we were expecting to see, making all the high-stakes drama and complexities worth nothing.