I’m fairly certain our original Founding Fathers didn’t pass the Second Amendment for this particular purpose. Two years after stopping himself from taking vengeance on Purge Night, Sergeant Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo) now finds himself as head of security for Senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell) in Washington, D.C. Roan has pledged, if elected as the next President, to eliminate the annual holiday that “cleanses” America and all of her ills. It’s personal to her, as she lost all of her family on this very night as a child.
On this Purge Night of 2025, the Senator makes a decision to stay at home under airtight surveillance by Leo and his team. Unfortunately, someone on the inside doesn’t agree with Charlie’s mission, and doesn’t want her to survive the night. A betrayal forces the two to take to the streets, which is the absolute worst place to be when the sirens sound.
As far as premises go, The Purge franchise has featured one of the more original ones in recent years. Yes, it can get picked apart for some terrible execution like the first exhibited, but Anarchy, not without its issues, did more with its story mythos than its predecessor. Now The Purge: Election Year has arrived during a year in which real life America is undergoing quite the bizarre election process. Does the third continue the upward trajectory that two seemed to indicate?
There’s good and bad with director James DeMonaco’s third feature. The good? The Purge once again gets taken to the outside and isn’t confined to a centralized location. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is the right sentiment to use. Despite the large shift from horror invasion to action horror-lite, the few scares are still more effective only because the purge world is realized as a place one doesn’t want to be in the middle of when everything hits the fan.
The bad? This does feel, structurally, a little too much like its predecessor. That is not a complete bad thing; DeMonaco films some tense action sequences, probably the best of the trilogy. But, it all is reminiscent of its predecessor, and disappointing only because there appears to be a real opportunity that isn’t used for a powder-keg moment that would resonate in today’s state of affairs.
To be fair, this entry does delve deeper into the political side of the purge, the New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA), the racial implications of the night, violence for violence’s sake, etc, and some of it can be held up to today’s America, albeit obviously more distorted and probably more black-and-white—literally—than it is. For yours truly, and not sure how exactly, I would have loved to see a different story structure that combined the outside element of Anarchy while still charting a different path.
To keep this world and its movies interconnected, some returnees are back, mainly badass Frank Grillo. Though it is sad that he’s not the focal point like he was before and falls more into the cast (his story is already told), he still brings the hard edge with some heart. Really, the whole cast is likable enough, built more around ideals than real full characters, but it works enough. At times, they are saddled with some pretty bad dialogue that aims to bring more humor to the proceedings; I guess one can assume that the movie has fully embraced its B-movie 80’s/90 feel. Their dialogue doesn’t compare to one character’s monologue about candy, however, which is likely to be a YouTube staple with how bad her lines are and the actual delivery of them.
Money talks, but at this point after three movies, it would be hard to envision a 4th coming out of The Purge franchise with the way Election Year ends without it being an obvious cash grab. If the Purge commencement has sounded its siren for the last time, at least we can say we made it relatively unscathed.
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