No theme could have been more appropriate for this year’s Purge than an artistic warning of the uncertain future of America. Much like the Mike Judge film, Idiocracy, The Purge: Election Year took up the subject of themes in our current political climate and put them in an extremist context. Although the actual practice of a yearly “Purge” is preposterous in our reality, this third installation of the now film-franchise gives almost a realistic telling of what that future would be like.
Years after sparing the man who killed his son, former police sergeant Barnes has become head of security for Senator Charlie Roan, a Presidential candidate targeted for death on Purge night due to her vow to eliminate the Purge.
Setting the social context of the film aside for a moment, Election Year has to be the most thought-out and higher quality of the three films. Set what seems like not so long after the second film, Anarchy, Frank Grillo reprises his role as Leo Barnes, carrying his “expertise” of Purge survival to his new job as a secret service agent to the anti-Purge candidate, Senator Charlie Roan. By carrying the story over with a measure of fluidity, the two films begin to leave the components of the first film behind.
The first Purge felt like a standalone exploration of the idea of an annual holiday where most crime is legal, yet, it had none of the more concrete social commentary of its successors. Although Ethan Hawke was alright in the first one, the evolution of character development shows much more improvement in Election Year. Performances by Mykelti Williamson (who was the famous Bubba Blue in Forest Gump) not only bring a little levity to the brutal Purge night, but he provides a real voice to the frustration of the real Purge victims. His role as Joe, a shop owner in DC is a look into the real-life frustration of those who have been marginalized in America. Joseph Julian Soria, who portrays Marcos, an immigrant become citizen who is looking for the fleeting “American dream” also takes up this role as the marginalized voice and the two (Joe and Marcos) make quite a pair as they travel through the chaotic city, trying to survive what they hope to be their last night of the brutal holiday.
Election Year does not disappoint when it comes to the creative costumes and methods Purgers use to terrorize and kill. I did appreciate the moment of looking into women’s roles in Purge culture and the variety of different roles they took, a departure from continually becoming victimized. Betty Gabriel who is sort of an acting unknown, delivered some really kick-ass moments as Laney Rucker whose strong-willed nature never falters, no matter how much is slung at her.
Although the performances are strong and the film never seems to lose pace, some of the Purge moments and characteristics seem a bit manufactured for future use. One of the lines that stuck out to me was on the eve before the Purge begins, and a costumed salesmen hocking his rubber masks shouts, “The Purge is Halloween for adults!” The scene is interesting, as it made me pause, wondering if we’ve come that far, in making Halloween synonymous with such brutality and the murderous consumerism that is engulfing the holiday.
Regardless, I think this third installment high a high note for the three films and I hope the ride isn’t over yet.
The Purge: Election Year is in theaters everywhere. Check out the trailer below: