Director: James DeMonaco
The Purge series owes its success to one central and abused concept: one night a year all crime, including murder, is legal, making viewers consider what they might do in a similar situation. The first film, the cinematic equivalent of untapped potential, did little to explore this concept, opting for a fairly standard home invasion thriller. Its sequel is widely considered an improvement, expanding the world in which these films take place and peppering it with social commentary, but still left much to be desired. All this brings us to The Purge: Election Year.
In an attempt to be relevant in our current political and social landscape (the tagline is “Keep America Great,” sound familiar?), franchise director James DeMonaco doubles down on the social commentary of the previous film, centering the story on independent presidential hopeful Charlie Roan who is determined to end the violent ‘holiday’ that is Purge. When her opposition attempts to target her, it is up to returning character Leo Barnes to help her survive the purge night. While the heavy handed political allegory is an interesting element in the story, it is never fully effective, instead often feeling like little more than a set-up for more of the violence and mayhem the franchise is known for.
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The main place where Election Year excels in the franchise is its characters. Unlike past Purge films, Election Year gives us characters that we actually root for, and dare I say, at times actually give the story emotional weight. Most of this success is attributed to the newest cast members, specifically the always-entertaining Elizabeth Mitchell, who manages to create a solid sympathetic character out of what little she is given to work with. It’s a shame the same can’t be said for Frank Grillo’s Leo Barnes, one of the highlights of the previous films, but this can be attributed to a perceived lack of motivation for his character.
The point here is that Election Year isn’t going to bring in much of a new audience to the franchise but if you are looking to indulge in some of the violence and mayhem purge night is known for, you’ve come to the right place.