The first Purge film with it’s home-invasion theme was novel in it’s being an ultra-violent commentary on social and economic classes and how little it would seem to take normal suburbia and turn it into a murder zone. For those that might not have seen the earlier films, the idea is that every year during the spring equinox from 7pm until 7am and and all forms of crime (including torture, rape, and murder) become legal. The cops, firefighters and paramedics won’t show up no matter what happens.
Now we’re up to installment number three in the franchise. The the general premise behind The Purge: Election Year, is the same as both of the prior films (introduce a handful of characters and try to guess which ones will make it through the night in one piece). However this time as the title suggests, it’s time for the presidential election, and while one candidate intends to keep with the annual tradition of carnage, the other is running on a ticket promising to end the practice.
The incumbent is a member of the New Founding Fathers of America party, Minister Edwidge Owens (played by Kyle Secor). When it becomes evident that the opponent, Senator Charlie Roan (played by Elizabeth Mitchell) is starting to pull ahead in the polls, the government rescinds the a Purge evening rule that protects government officials over a certain level. That makes an assassination of Roan fair game and the chase is on.
It’s probably not the best of the three films, the fights seem actually more disjointed than they have previously. Perhaps it’s because the scope is becoming wider – in the first film it was tension within a single house, then it was mostly on a neighborhood scale, and now it’s at the city level and involving more skirmish sized battles. The characters are less engaging, but perhaps this time that isn’t really as relevant because with everything going on currently in the real-world election this one feels so timely and relevant that it doesn’t take any great leap to make comparisons. A female senator trying to champion and downtrodden vs a religious right minister who wants to use the purge to eliminate them.
If most films have social commentary that are at least somewhat subtle, this one lays in wait for subtlety and stabs it in the throat as it walks down a dark alley. Because that’s what happens during Purge night.
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