The Purge franchise has been built on the controlled chaos that for one night all activities were fair game with no consequences, even murder. However, the latest offering The Purge: Election Year seeks to break the status-quo as Presidential candidate Charlotte Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell) aims to put an end to the annual holiday. Her motive is revealed to us in the opening scene as 18 years previous a purger took Roan’s family captive, leaving her as the sole survivor.
Writer/director James DeMonaco has crafted a successful, thrifty franchise in these films, and, with the returning Frank Grillo as Leo Barnes, there is a very familiar feel to 2014’s The Purge: Anarchy. This time around Barnes, the reliably relatable tough guy, must shepherd the determined Roan through the madness to keep her political chances — and, more importantly, keep her alive.
After a failed assassination attempt on the Senator, the pair take to the streets on Washington. As a foil to Roan’s political ambitions, we have deli store owner Joe Dixon (Mykelti Williamson), his employee Marcos (J.J. Soria) and ex-gang member turned medi-tech Laney Rucker (Betty Gabriel) who help rescue Roan and Barnes from certain death.
As DeMonaco comes up with inventive ways for people to Purge – including a rag-tag group of girls who are bitter because their attempt to rob Joe’s store was thwarted – there is a sense that we’ve been here before.
Even though some of the narrative can be quite predictable, as the viewer you are happy to tag along for the journey and see where the group will end up.
One thing that DeMonaco has on his side is timing. With the president-elect Donald Trump soon to take office, The Purge: Election Year is an extreme version of how things could look in a “new America”, with some sharp jabs to be found – particularly the idea that the people in charge can change the rules to suit themselves on a whim and use religious screeds to back up their twisted point of view.
Throughout the film the death toll slowly ticks along, but there isn’t a huge amount of brutality until we reach the closing moments of the film. With our heroes seeming getting back to normal and Roan getting a landslide victory, it appears that the times of purging are behind America, but as with DeMonaco’s films everything is not as it seems, leaving the door ajar for further violence.
Dir: James DeMonaco
Scr: James DeMonaco
Prd: Michael Bay and Jason Blum
Cast: Elizabeth Mitchell, Frank Grillo, Mykelti Williamson, J.J. Soria and Betty Gabriel
Runtime: 110 min
The Purge: Election Year is out on Blu-ray and DVD now.