The Purge: Election Year is the third film in the Purge franchise and promised to take its satire to a whole new level, turning its hand to examining the politics of purging. The outcome? A tremendous waste of potential, and another frustrating instalment in a confused and messy franchise.
I’ve never been a fan of this series. I love the potential and the idea of purging, but the films themselves have not worked out too well. The first instalment was an incredibly frustrating film filled with poor writing and bad characters. The second film was more fun and embraced a lighter tone really well. This third film looked like it could continue what The Purge: Anarchy achieved by tackling political satire with a satisfying use of a violent environment. However, instead of living up to its potential, the outcome is a confused, overt and wasted mess of a film that is at the same, average level of the preceding films.
You’d hope that three films in, the director of each instalment, James DeMonaco, would have a better handle of the series and understand what went wrong previously and how to correct it. However, he makes the same mistakes and doesn’t know what needs to happen in order to make the most out of the great potential.
The poor writing has always been the biggest issue with the series, and Election Year is no exception. It may not have the awful child characters from the first film, but replacing them are the unbelievably clichéd and ridiculous ‘purgers’ who really make the film wince-inducing. For some reason, DeMonaco makes each purger a psychopath with no idea of normality. The purge is meant to be a national holiday which allows everyone a release and chance to take out the stress they’ve been holding in. What comes across, though, is that everyone who purges is a brainless psycho who butchers and mutilates. It felt wholly contradictory. Not to mention that the dialogue for these characters and the acting is appalling.
The film only sporadically did what should have been done. There were a couple of very entertaining and fun scenes involving the slaying of purgers. I did take pleasure in that and wished that the film was more like that, instead of attempting to do something it can’t. The satire it wants to invoke is very poorly handled. The bad writing and directing meant that the scenes of meaningless violence were more engaging than the ones which were trying to say something about society.
What saves this film from being abysmal is the entertainment value. It’s enjoyably breezy from start to finish and never gets boring. Frank Grillo is thankfully back and he does a great job, looking very comfortable in his role and nailing the few action sequences he is given. There are some very smart elements in the film, such as how immigrants travel into America in order to purge, and how that is seen as a positive for the economy. The idea of the Purge is made to seem like a business and political decision which sometimes works, but occasionally falls flat.
Overall, The Purge: Election Year is about as good as the other two films in the series. What that means is subjective to your own opinions. To me, that meant that the film is average at best with some redeeming features. The future of the series is up in the air, but if it continues, someone desperately needs to replace DeMonaco.
Written by Luke Compton