By Mark Saldana
Rating: 2 (Out of 4 Stars)
After being underwhelmed by The Purge, and pleasantly surprised with the improved, but still problematic The Purge: Anarchy, I now get to review the next chapter in the Purge franchise. Writer/director James DeMonaco is back with another installment in his subversive series of violence and destruction. The Purge: Election Year takes place two-years after the events of the last film, and continues the story arc of former police officer Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo). Considering that the United States is currently going through a real election year (and a doozy at that), DeMonaco chose an apt theme for his film and chose to offer a movie more focused on delivering a political statement and critique of people in power, American society, and the religious right. The problem, however, is the execution which comes across as too silly and over-the-top to be taken too seriously.
After learning much from his experiences in the previous film, former police sergeant Leo Barnes has decided to support the cause of ending the country’s annual Purge by putting his skills to use as head of security for U.S. Senator Charlene Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell), a candidate for the U.S. Presidency. Senator Roan is the nation’s leading opponent of the Purge and makes its elimination her chief goal as leader of the nation. With Roan’s popularity increasing steadily, The Found Fathers desperately hire a band of mercenaries to assassinate Roan on the night of the annual Purge.
Much like DeMonaco’s previous installment, The Purge: Election Year suffers from writing that is sometimes laughably ridiculous and gets carried away with perpetuating racial stereotypes. The villains are over-the-top caricatures intended to critique the selfishness of the powerful 1% and the hypocrisy of the religious right. The targets are spot-on, but their development and portrayal are not dimensional and come across as too ludicrous to be real. The action and violence in the film lacks the intensity of the previous film which I had thought needed more potency anyway. The overall result is an unintentionally funny, sometimes annoying, and ultimately disappointing film which had the potential of outshining the previous chapters.
The best aspect of the film is the same somewhat redeeming quality of the last Purge film. That would be the awesome presence and performance of Frank Grillo. Grillo brings charisma and badassery to his portrayal of Leo Barnes, a man forever changed by the Purge and on the right side of justice this time. Elizabeth Mitchell delivers a solid turn as U.S Senator Roan, another person affected by the Purge, and determined to change things for the better. The film also stars Mykelti Williamson as deli-owner Joe Dixon who has chosen to stand guard at his place of business and fight against any vandals that the Purge may attract, particularly a group of angry teens Joe previously busted for shoplifting. Williamson does bring much heart and personality to his role, but his character suffers the most from racial stereotypes and silly writing.
That seems to be the main issue with this entire series–silly writing. This subversive film franchise lacks the necessary oomph and grit to really drive its message home. It also lacks the proper writing and development of its villains to be taken seriously. The movie does offer junk food entertainment, but could be so much more and have much more relevance in light of recent current events. As far as I’m concerned, this franchise should be finished, but I suspect that the producers and James DeMonaco will make an attempt at least one more installment.