Classic Review: The Purge: Election Year (2016)

Since I’ve started this site, I’ve written a lot of reviews. In case you missed some of my earlier ones, I would like to share an older review of “The Purge: Election Year” which originally appeared here.

As a young girl, Sen. Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell) survived the annual night of lawlessness that took the lives of her family members. As a presidential candidate, Roan is determined to end the yearly tradition of blood lust once and for all. When her opponents hatch a deadly scheme, the senator finds herself trapped on the streets of Washington, D.C., as the latest Purge gets underway. Now, it’s up to Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo), her head of security, to keep her alive during the next 12 hours of mayhem.

I’ve always been a huge fan of The Purge series. It felt very original at the time and that originality has kind of went away after two sequels. Everybody knows what the purge is by now. The first film was great since the sense of isolation with the family trapped in the house, falling victim to the purge but didn’t have much of a story beyond that. The next film opened things up with more purge-related craziness while following more characters and having some story but the multiple characters did muddle things up. This new film is promising and looks to offer a more focused plot.

This film could not have come at a better time with the real American presidential election coming soon with a large percentage of Americans thinking that their country may end up like the purge depending on the outcome. The film’s plot was surely coincidental but does offer some interesting parallels. The purge has gone on for a long time but the anti-purge subplot from the previous film continues here and takes the forefront with a senator running for president named Charlie Roan (Mitchell) wanting to end the purge. Sergeant, now Leo Barnes (fascinating), is still around as Roan’s head of security and must protect her through this year’s purge.

What made this film more interesting than the previous two was that the purge was still taking place but it wasn’t the focus here, being relegated to the background while the focus was on Roan’s quest to end the purge. This was emphasized by the sheer ruthlessness of her opposition and the purgers themselves who all brought more crazy than the previous two films. There wasn’t as many purgers as in previous films but their portrayal was definitely over the top to say the least while being completely coated in cheese. Their dialogue was just laughably bad with a discussion about a candy bar standing out for the wrong or right reasons, but that was okay as it stopped taking itself seriously.

Roan and Barnes were interesting characters with Roan’s backstory being interesting and we already knew about Barnes from the previous film. He wants the purge gone just as much as she does but they have much different views as to how to go about doing it. She’s a very passionate senator and this makes Barnes’ job a lot more difficult. Once they are forced to roam the streets, the plot feels very similar to the previous film but what differentiates this is the relationship between Roan and Barnes. Mitchell and Grillo had great chemistry which made them very fun and compelling to watch. We already knew about Barnes’/Sergeant’s action prowess from the previous film and he continues to radiate general badassery here while being great at the shooting, the fighting, etc.

The anti-purge sentiment dominated the plot as we got to see both sides of the argument with Roan and the NFFA (New Founding Fathers of America). It was nice to see the other side of the argument which has been mostly absent in the previous films. They were the other cheesy, over the top party here but it would have been nice to have seen more of them. Sure they were way too over the top but it worked because it fit well within the world.

In order to break things up, the film also featured some secondary characters in Joe Dixon (Mykelti Williamson), Marcos (Joseph Julian Soria), and Laney Rucker (Betty Gabriel). Their purpose was to basically provide a different perspective on the issue. They were all good, eventually joining Roan and Barnes, bringing some comic relief and levity to the dark subject matter. A big source of suspense was whether or not Roan would survive through the night to challenge the NFFA and take the presidency. Her journey was fun to watch with all of its very dangerous twists and turns. She did have some support along the way and seeing how they all came together was great as well.

Overall, it would be hard to imagine this series continuing based on how this one ends so if this is the end, it ended on a high note.

Score: 8.5/10

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