This weekend sees the release of The Purge: Election Year, the third installment in writer/director James DeMonaco's demented horror franchise. For unfamiliar audiences, the series takes place in a not-so-distant future version of the United States that's completely free from crime. And that's because the government has instituted "the Purge" — allowing citizens one night of the year to fulfill their most brutal, bloody fantasies with no threat of punishment.
Election Year sees the return of actor Frank Grillo as Leo Barnes, the conflicted cop hero of 2014's The Purge: Anarchy. He's now the head of security for anti-Purge Presidential hopeful Senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell). Of course, the powers that be want to keep the Purge going, and when they attempt to assassinate Roan it's up to Barnes and a rag-tag group of citizens to keep the senator alive. That's easier said than done, considering the twisted killers and psychos free to do whatever they please throughout the streets of Washington D.C.
Critics are pouring in reviews for the new film, and generally speaking it sounds like fans of the series will find plenty to enjoy in Election Year, even though the film isn't the best entry for newcomers.
The Most Political Purge Film Yet
It should come as no surprise that Election Year plays up its political storyline, especially considering our currently contentious presidential campaign cycle. And that political flavor gives the film a new edge. In his review for Birth.Movies.Death, Evan Saathoff said:
"It wants to point a finger at how the government marginalizes the American lower class only to later blame them for the problems that arise from that poverty. And it wants to make those responsible pay. Few would disagree - the last twelve months have been pretty fucked up. 'The Purge: Election Year' feels like an answer to much of what has plagued us as a country lately."
For Variety's Owen Gleiberman, the added politics were pretty obvious, but laid the groundwork for some solid entertainment:
"The action is excitingly sustained in a way that it wasn’t in the previous two, and the political dimension, while crude as hell, exerts a brute-force entertainment value."
Get Ready For Brutal Action
2013's The Purge was straight-up horror, and while The Purge: Anarchy added more action to the series that element is really played up in Election Year. As A.O. Scott said in his New York Times review:
"This chapter wanders from horror-movie images and effects into the kind of straightforward action that shares DNA with westerns and platoon pictures of old."
The Hollywood Reporter's Justin Lowe had plenty of praise for director James DeMonaco's refreshing action scenes:
"DeMonaco has further upped his game with the third installment by working closely with franchise cinematographer Jacques Jouffret to design rewardingly more complex action sequences and well-focused set pieces that are both efficiently executed and visually engaging."
Does Election Year Elevate The Franchise?
The political themes and brutal action may be played up for Election Year, but they aren't new elements to the franchise. For some, the latest installment doesn't elevate the series. The movie wasn't much of an improvement for Screenrant's Chris Agar, who said:
"'The Purge: Election Year' is an OK sequel for die-hard fans of the series, but it won’t win any new converts. ... DeMonaco knows exactly what it is and doubles down on all the familiar elements to craft a thriller that does have some tense moments, but is still arguably the most ridiculous and over-the-top Purge movie yet."
Though his review was generally positive, The Village Voice's Bilge Ebiri thinks Election Year should be the final film in the series:
"If 'The Purge: Election Year' is ultimately still engaging, it’s largely because of the irresistibility of the basic concept itself. But this new movie also makes a pretty good case for why the series should end here: Things have not only come to their logical conclusion, but you get the curious sense that the filmmakers have run out of ideas."
The Purge: Election Year definitely isn't for everyone. It's filled with brutal action and the sort of demented horror that's become a staple of the series. But if you can handle the twisted nature of the series, you might find some interesting social commentary that feels all too tied to our current political climate.
The Purge: Election Year is in theaters now. Will you see the latest Purge movie? Let us know in the comments below!