Purge Is the Word
In addition to being unapologetic exploitation, the Purge films have also offered a blunt, knee-jerk allegory on the hypocrisies of American society. The basic premise, simple but effective, is that in the near future, for one night a year residents are allowed to go absolutely psychotic – maiming, murdering, pillaging, raping, and destroying at will – thereby purging them of such primal urges.
James DeMonaco, the writer/director of all three films, displayed a knack for nightmarish imagery and visceral violence. The first Purge (2013) was a homeinvasion thriller essentially confined to one setting. In The Purge: Anarchy (2014), DeMonaco enjoyed an enlarged budget and expanded the parameter by putting the story out in the open and on the move – more an action movie than a thriller.
Now, with The Purge: Election Year, DeMonaco reverts to a more conventional storyline. This time around, growing public disgust with the annual Purge night has given rise to the candidacy of Senator Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell), the survivor of an earlier Purge who now wants to purge the Purge – permanently.
Needless to say, the powers that be (represented by the likes of Kyle Secor and Raymond J. Barry) would prefer the status quo to remain, and if that means assassinating Roan on Purge Night, so be it.
Character actor Frank Grillo, whose career got a nice boost thanks to the boost he gave Anarchy, reprises his role as hard-bitten but hopeful Leo Barnes. Now Senator Roan’s bodyguard, he is – naturally – the only man who can save her.
Whereas the earlier films were action thrillers seasoned with allegory, in Election Year, it’s the other way around. The political undertones are rather deafening, to say nothing of stereotypical. The good guys are ethnically diverse, the bad guys are neo-Nazi WASP extremists. The good guys who die do so heroically, the bad guys … well, they just die.
DeMonaco gives his hard-working cast – which also includes Mykelti Williamson, Joseph Julian Soria and feisty Betty Gabriel – ample time to establish their characters, perhaps too much. Expediency might have been a better approach, especially considering the film runs 20 minutes longer than the first film. The second film was almost as long, but was also more action-packed.
Still, The Purge: Election Year won’t disappoint fans of the franchise (too much). The novelty may be wearing off, but the film gets its punchy points across in reasonably entertaining fashion. !
MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2016, Mark Burger.