The Purge: Election Year review: Writer / director James DeMonaco returns with one final purge night.
The Purge: Election Year review by Kat Hughes, August 2016.
A rare feat in the horror genre, Director James DeMonaco has written and directed all three Purge films. This has meant that the series doesn’t feel as schizophrenic as other franchises in the genre. Granted we’re a long way from the humble beginnings of the first film, but the three films are easily recognisable as relating to one another.
The series started in 2013 with The Purge, starring Lena Heady and Ethan Hawke, and was a film very much in the vein of home invasion flick Funny Games. This was followed in 2014 with The Purge: Anarchy which jumped backwards in time somewhat and introduced us to Frank Grillo’s sergeant character. The second outing took the action to the streets and started delving further into the shadowy political figures behind the annual crime spree. The third film digs deeper into the political lore and sees Grillo return as a bodyguard to politician Senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell) who finds herself a prime target for being publicly anti-purge.
This time we get to know slightly more about Grillo’s Sergeant; last time around he didn’t even have a name. Now we get a name, Leo, and a chance for him to show off his particular set of skills. Set two years after The Purge Anarchy, Leo is now firmly in the anti-purge camp and he must keep the Senator safe at all costs. After being double-crossed the pair find themselves out on the streets wherein they band together with the owner of a local deli, Joe, and his dedicated customer base.
At 109 minutes this is definitely the longest Purge film, but doesn’t necessarily feel it. There are several scenes that could easily be trimmed or left out altogether however, but on the whole the film is perfectly paced. You won’t wonder where the time went, but you also won’t be clock watching.
Disappointingly the ‘murder tourists’ as seen in the trailers amount to nothing more than a handful of scenes. Then there’s the teenage girl gang who somehow show up at the deli shop armed to the teeth (with machine guns and chainsaws) intent on teaching Joe a lesson and stealing a candy bar. Prior to Purge night their attempts at shoplifting were thwarted and the leader loves her candy. Yet despite all this build up, again they amount to nothing more than offering another excuse to see people go crazy with bloodlust.
The flaw in The Purge: Election Year is the exact same one that badgered the previous two movies. People in Purge films go from normal to gun-toting mass-murders in the time it takes for the countdown to complete. This is a world where all crime is legal and yet all we see is murder after murder after murder. It’d be more compelling if we could get some variety.
This film has a lot to say about the world of the purge and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to draw parallels to the state of our current political climate. Frustratingly though, despite having Election Year in the title, we still don’t really get into the nitty gritty of those people behind the scenes.
What we do get is an odd hybrid of the first two movies complete with an excess of violence. Plus Frank Grillo kicking a lot of arse. The Purge trilogy feels like a self-contained story and they say that three is the magic number, but only time will tell if this is the last that we’ve seen of this universe.
The Purge: Election Year arrives in UK cinemas Friday 26th August.