All political allegiances and preferences aside, someone’s got to give it to The Purge franchise for being some of the few movies out there that absolutely does not give a fuck. If you watch The Purge movies and somehow miss what political realities they hate and support, you either need to binge watch some local news or get the fuck out from under your homely rock.
Set two years after the events of The Purge: Anarchy (2014), The Purge: Election Year (2016) sees the return of Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo) who now works as the security head of Sen. Charlene Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell), an aspiring presidential candidate whose entire electoral platform is built on abolishing the annual Purge. Threatened, the New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA) decide to use the 26th Purge night to assassinate the senator before she could ban their murderous holiday, thus kicking a life-or-death chase into action.
Ignoring its low budget and how often it shits out sequels, what defines The Purge movies is their novel premise that focuses on an alternate America that thought legalizing all crime for a 12 hour period while yelling patriotic rabble would be a good way to celebrate everything that makes America great. Coupled with this satirical premise are the heavily advertised social commentaries and disturbing amounts of violence, two things which if balanced would deliver a great Purge movie but something all three movies have managed to fuck up.
Joyless Murder Festival
Election Year does a fine job of building on where Anarchy left off, with the series’ improved world building now in the forefront of the movie. Instead of merely implying certain social issues like what the original did, Election Year shamelessly shows off its commentary on major hot topics like race and the ever widening economic divide between the rich and the poor with all the bravado of a trashy satire from the ’80s, namely stuff like RoboCop (1987). Considering how today’s movies tend to play it safe or masquerade their commentaries by creating disposable villains like using a Pinocchio loving sentient robot as a metaphor for controversial drone policy, seeing something like Election Year blatantly label extreme right wing opinions and excessive nationalism as both murderous and fanatical was not just refreshing but amusing in a cathartic way as well.
That may sound promising but Election Year never does much with its newfound voice, which sucks because it never learned from the one fatal mistake that its predecessors made: it took itself way too seriously.
For a movie whose entire ad campaign rested on gratuitous murder courtesy of those ubiquitous masked fuckers, there was more lecturing than killing in Election Year than expected. Of the Purge movies, Election Year may have the best narrative and commentary but it’s possibly the dullest entry yet if not for the formulaic home-invasion thriller that was the first installment. The Purge movies fit perfectly in the Horror/Thriller genre but they are notorious for lacking anything that would incite fear or thrill from the audience, and Election Year does just that by literally passing by interesting stuff like Murder Tourists or the Purge Mass before focusing on yet another chase, which was already the entire fucking point of Anarchy. While the social commentary is much appreciated, watching characters bitch endlessly about election cycles and their backstories is not exactly what audiences wanted when they saw a dude get his fucking head chopped off by a guillotine in the trailers for a movie whose mascots are masked killers decked in sweet patriotic garb.
Same Old Holiday
Despite some nifty additions and an admittedly campy but creative production design that made some scenes stand out, Election Year, for lack of better words, is just another Purge movie. Every obligatory thing you’d expect from the annual Purge is here, like lingering slow motion shots of the deranged masked killers brandishing their chosen weapons to the incredibly hammy dialogue spouted by the every member of the cast to monumental showcases of stupidity. It’s true that each succeeding Purge movie improves on what the last installment did, but each sequel failed to capitalize on the opportunity to redefine the franchise as a whole and elevate its status to something more than a disposable and violent editorial cartoon.
Similarly, The Purge movies are not known for good character writing and once again, Election Year doesn’t bother doing anything to address this issue.The argument can be made that all of the characters heavily adhere to tropes because Election Year is a B-Movie at its core and while that may be sound, the fact remains that Election Year wants to be taken seriously. Thing is, it’s hard to take Election Year as seriously as it wants when the head of the NFFA is the perfect human embodiment of a Lizard Person who hisses every fucking word that comes out of his mouth and hires fucking Neo-Nazis to kill liberals. If Election Year was somewhat self-aware, its outlandish premise would have actually benefited from the hyperbolic satire instead of looking like a violent version of a Saturday morning cartoon where the villain takes the words “War On Poverty” literally by demanding a systematic genocide of hobos.
Election Year may be another example of style overtaking substance but in its defense, Election Year is the most unapologetic Purge movie to date and it’s a fucked up sight to behold. It may be the opposite of self-aware and it may be self indulgent, especially seen in how it depicts conservative politics in broad strokes and yet, there’s a nostalgic B-Movie charm to the entire Purge franchise that hearkens to the days when movies literally did not give a fuck when it came to violence and shock value. Election Year and the Purge movies in general are not for everyone but for those who like their political opinions told with a massive bodycount and a fuckton of carnage, take a cathartic break from the daily news and enjoy gangbangers shooting the fuck out of colorful self-righteous elitists.
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