The Purge: Election Year Shows An Ugly And Violent America That’s A Lot Like The Real Thing.
The Purge: Election Year.
Director: James DeMonaco.
Writer: James DeMonaco.
Actors: Frank Grillo, Elizabeth Mitchell, Mykelti Williamson, Joseph Julian Soria, Betty Gabriel and Edwin Hodge.
The Purge franchise began as a small horror/home-invasion movie about a family that tries to fend off masked assailants during the yearly 12-hour period where all crime is legal, including murder. Now three movies in, its scope has broadened into something of a social commentary surrounding this proposed government-sanctioned population control effort in which minorities, the elderly and the poor are the main targets. The newest installment, The Purge: Election Year , only doubles down on this exploration of social issues — through insane violence, of course.
Picking up two years after the events of The Purge: Anarchy, Frank Grillo’s Leo Barnes is now the head of security for U.S. Senator Charlie Roan (the Dallas-raised Elizabeth Mitchell), whose presidential platform is the abolishment of the Purge. Naturally, this does not sit well with the cartoonishly evil New Founding Fathers of America, so they change the rules of the upcoming Purge to include all government officials — people who who were previously immune — and thus making the senator a big target. After her security detail is compromised, Barnes and the senator go on the run and team up with Joe (Mykelti Williamson), Marcus (Joseph Julian Sora), and Laney (Betty Gabriel) in order to survive the night.
The set and costume design of the movie is outstanding. Despite the movie taking place “in the near future,” it’s amazing to see the war zones that cities becomes as soon as the Purge’s sirens sound. There are girl gangs in crazy cars that are covered in lights, European “murder tourists” wearing demonic Abraham Lincoln masks, and even freaking barbarian-style fights. The masks, which have always been a constant in the series, are so freaky and bizarre that Slipknot should be ashamed. Even the unmasked antagonists are outlandish: One of them is a mercenary with a bunch of white power and Nazi tattoos on his face; another looks like Klaus Kinski’s Nosferatu.
The movie is at its best when it shows how the Purge affects people who are not old and white. In these moments, it criticizes all aspects of American life, from religion to economics and even personal responsibility. Those who are barely getting by get screwed over, making it even harder for them to survive. Take Joe, who owns a deli, for instance. He sees his “purge insurance” rates raised by thousands the day before the event, forcing him to stay out in the open to protect his store.
It’s almost like it’s hard to get ahead in life unless you’re born into money and privilege! Hmmmmm.
Oh, and then there’s the fact that the Presidential candidate running against Roan is an actual minister, which feels like a creepy look into our the future.
In a real-life time where the middle class is shrinking, debt is increasing, the job market is shaky, and religious and hateful zealots are becoming increasingly violent, this movie might be tough to watch.
There’s hope to be had in it — but not much. The Purge: Election Year paints a bleak and violent picture of America.
It hits a little too close to home, frankly.