Director: James DeMonaco
Cast: Frank Grillo, Elizabeth Mitchell, Edwin Hodge, Betty Gabriel, JJ Soria, Mykelti Williamson
Release Date: July 1st, 2016
The Purge franchise continues with The Purge: Election Year, troche the newest chapter in this violent series. This one focuses on the annual event as a presidential campaign, pitting an anti-purge Senator against a pro-purge psychopath, heats up.
Many critics are calling this feature an improvement in the series or one that holds up against previous chapter The Purge: Anarchy. The original film in the series only earned a 37% approval rating on RottenTomatoes.com while the better-liked second chapter earned a 56% positive rating.
At this writing, the third feature has a 54% fresh rating on RottenTomatoes.com.
Check out a few of the must-read The Purge: Election Year reviews below (and make sure you check out our own review here).
A.O. Scott, NYTimes.com: “‘The Purge: Election Year’ takes itself just seriously enough to provide the expected measure of fun — a blend of aggression, release and relief. A lot of people die, but no one really gets hurt.” Check out the full review here.
Simon Abrams, RogerEbert.com: “There’s nothing specific, thoughtful or emotionally involving about “Election Night” beyond a basic need to push buttons, and get a rise out of viewers.” Check out the full review here.
Pete Hammond, Deadline.com: “Ultimately the star of this is really the concept and it makes for a very watchable and durable franchise.”Check out the full review here.
Owen Gleiberman, Variety.com: “It’s a squalid B-movie political horror film that plays to our most reptile-brained basic instincts, and also to our cartoon-noble ideals, and by the end you can’t separate the two; that’s the way canny shameless pop works.” Check out the full review here.
Scott Mendelson, Forbes.com: “The Purge: Election Year is a closer contest than I would have expected, but it deserves your vote.” Check out the full review here.
Laura Bradley, VanityFair.com: “Only a wet blanket fixates on minor details like implausibility and mixed messages when the on-screen spectacle is a pulpy delight—which the Purge movies, especially Anarchy and Election Year, certainly have been.” Check out the full review here.
Chris Nashawaty, EW.com: “In Election Year, DeMonaco’s reach finally matches his grasp.” Check out the full review here.
Dave White, TheWrap.com: “DeMonaco’s vision is realized effectively by the murk and shadow of cinematographer Jacques Jouffret (like DeMonaco, he’s shot all three “Purge” movies), where most of the shots seem to be lit by emergency-exit signs and the kind of hand-held lamps found at construction sites, underground tunnels, and other places where the pick-ax killer from “My Bloody Valentine” would hang out.” Check out the full review here.
If you want to read our perspective on the film, click here for our review.
There’s always been a political statement inherent in the Purge franchise. The first feature introduced the concept of a national purge night, a twelve-hour period when crime — with very few limitations — was permitted in the United States. The New Founding Fathers of America, the corrupt political power in charge, seemingly supported the sadistic practice because the purge led to the reduction of crime and low unemployment. The Purge Election Year, the newly-released third feature in the series, makes the series’ political message even clearer.
The night of mayhem in this entry occurs in the heat of a presidential match-up. In the presidential campaign, the anti-purge Senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell) faces off against the pro-purge Minister Edwidge Owens (Kyle Secor). Eighteen years earlier, Roan had witnessed her family’s gruesome murder during a purge night and her top priority is ending the annual slaughter. Owens supports the purge and even plans to attend a purge mass featuring human sacrifices.
Writer/director James DeMonaco, who previously helmed and wrote the first two entries, makes the series’ political perspective more obvious here. The New Founding Fathers of America are being subsidized/ owned by wealthy businessmen who want to destroy their enemies. One businessmen — sitting smugly in a board room — notes “Some can not have. Not enough to go around.” “We are going to use this purge to do some spring cleaning,” he adds.
The wealthy psychopaths plan to assassinate Roan, the rising politician who decries how the purge benefits the NRA and corporate leaders.
The thriller works well enough with Frank Grillo returning here as Leo Barnes, a man who sought vengeance before offering forgiveness in the second installment, The Purge: Anarchy. Barnes serves as Roan’s bodyguard and has to protect her even when her security team betrays her (for money, of course). The duo team up with Joe Dixon (Mykelti Williamson), a local business owner who is trying to protect his own American dream, and his two closest friends.
Although the concept of the purge feels a bit tired now, this sequel works better than the second installment. It’s more heavy-handed politically but the battling ideologies in the campaign make the concept’s core ideas stand out more powerfully than they previously did.
In a broader sense, this feature — like The Hunger Games — shows what an all-powerful government can do. Here, the government leaders are not picking the winners and the losers. They are picking who lives (those with money and those who know how to fight) and who dies (thousands of innocent civilians). The government lets anarchy reign for a night and pushes people to indulge in their worst instincts. “This night corrupts everyone,” Roan states while witnessing the carnage.
The feature even suggests that even the good people — the morally upstanding citizens — are tempted to indulge in the brutality.
It’s easy to draw associations between this year’s presidential campaign and this feature (several critics already have). In fact, director DeMonaco has noted that he made some changes to the feature to reflect the current political environment.
Fortunately though, the deeper themes about good versus evil and citizens revolting against an oppressive government are more prominent here. If the feature offers a critique against corporate hotshots, there are also criticisms of angry protestors — one psychotic character comes to mind — who want to tear down an entrepreneur’s hard-fought American dream.
Mitchell and Grillo made a strong team playing characters who — despite all of the corruption and mayhem surrounding them — still believe in the goodness of people. That’s a key message that The Purge Election Year offers and one that makes this feature worthwhile.
Review by: John Hanlon