In the first attempt to make the Purge series extremely political, The Purge: Election Year is easily the weakest of the three films.
Senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell) will stop at nothing to ensure that the annual Purge night event – a night each year in the United States of America where all crime is legal – due to one Purge night that resulted in the death of her entire family. Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo), her head of security, and now it is up to the both of them to see if they can make it out of the most deadly Purge night yet.
Up until this year, I had not seen a single Purge film, but I had always wanted to because I always found myself being fascinated by its extremely original and intriguing concept, and they looked different from the typical home invasion type film. A few months ago, I went ahead and watched 2013’s The Purge and I ended up exceptionally disappointed, as I found it to be extremely silly, and unfortunately, ended up being exactly like a home invasion film. Shortly afterwards, I watched 2014’s The Purge: Anarchy, the first film’s sequel, and I actually found a lot of enjoyment with the picture. The action sequences were really well put together and choreographed, and had plenty of thrills and suspense. Sure, it is extremely silly which can definitely make the film less believable, but at the end of the day, I had an absolute blast watching Anarchy.
As much as I genuinely love the concept of the Purge films being centered around one night in America where all crime including murder is legal, it is extremely difficult to believe, as it is so obvious that this kind of event would never happen in a million years in our actual world. Something I did appreciate about Election Year however was its deep exploration into politics. We see several candidates when they are off camera not addressing people, and we get to see their true side which can be chilling and thought-provoking. It shows the audience how corrupt they actually are, and how far they are willing to go to ensure they will win the election. It makes for some genuinely thrilling moments.
I have also always found the dialogue in every single Purge film to date to be rather bad and cringe-worthy. Unfortunately, the worst case of this has to be in this film. Several scenes went by that I honestly felt awkward just by sitting down and watching this film. Easily the worst line of dialogue present in Election Year has to be spoken by Mykelti Williamson’s character Joe Dixon. This is no joke, one of the line he delivers in this film – “There are a whole bunch of Negros coming this way, and we’re looking like a big ol’ bucket of fried chicken.” I am genuinely baffled, to say the least, that this line was actually written down on a script for an actor to actually speak those words on camera.
Similar to the other Purge entries, Election Year is filled to the brim with clichés, and occasionally suffers from the exact same clichés that were present within the original film.
There are some sequences of genuine thrills and there is certainly some fun to be had here. What’s unfortunate though, is that there just simply is not enough of that here. That’s one of the biggest head scratching things about the Purge films – it is a film that is supposed to be centred around a night in America where all crime whatsoever is legal for that night. But for some reason, we simply only see a little bit of carnage transpire on screen before the film eventually is over. I hope that a future installment will crank up the carnage more, as these films should have a little bit more of the carnage that they promise.
The Purge: Election Year thankfully shows us corrupt politics and delivers on some elements of suspense, but ultimately ends up failing to deliver a powerful punch with corny dialogue, cliché moments, and lackluster action.
Overall Grade: C+
MPAA Rating: Rated R for disturbing bloody violence and strong language
Cast: Frank Grillo, Elizabeth Mitchell, Mykelti Williamson
Directed by: James DeMonaco
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Running Time: 109 minutes