The Purge movies have an interesting concept when you first hear it, all crime being completely legal in the United States once a year for a period of 12 hours, that completely falls apart when you think about it for more than a few seconds. There is kind of no way this idea would ever actually work. I doubt drug dealers are going to wait for that specific time period to peddle a year’s worth of supply. What about crimes of passion? Are you really thinking that someone who in the heat of the moment wants to kill their spouse is going to go “nah, gotta wait 32 weeks and then it’s on.” The movies continuously tell us the purge has helped in a number of ways, including dramatically decreasing the crime rates, but I don’t buy it.
It didn’t help that the first movie is not a quality product. It’s so limited in scope after you hear about this grand idea. It all takes place within one home and it’s not even a very good home invasion movie. The bad guys were laughable and the whole thing was just so blah. The sequel fared slightly better, actually getting out into the streets and showing us first-hand what it’s like to be on the ground level for this insanity. The third movie, Election Year, follows in the same footsteps but aims to add an extra level of political satire in there.
Presidential candidate Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell) had to watch her family be butchered in front of her during the purge when she was young. Now her whole political platform is centered around abolishing the purge entirely, citing it as an easy way for the rich to get rid of the poor. The tides are turning and people are starting to view the purge as the fucked up national event that it truly is, which means Roan stands a very good chance of winning the election. The opposition, a bunch of rich white assholes, aren’t having it and plan to assassinate her during the purge. This is the bulk of the film as her Head of Security Leo (Frank Grillo, returning from the previous film) tries to keep her safe as they have no choice but to hit the streets and get into the middle of the action.
The villains in The Purge movies continue to be incredibly fucking lame. They are these over the top cartoonish, sing songy assholes that are impossible to take seriously. They are trying so hard to be creepy, clearly taking time to make these dumb masks and outfits so people will know how crazy they are. It would be like if The Joker just ran around constantly telling people straight up “I’m completely insane you guys! Look at me! Weeeeee!” We know that dude is crazy because of his actions. It’s like The Purge doesn’t trust the audience to know these are bad guys so they have to dress them up in these dumb outfits and have them yell nonsense about wanting candy bars. Oh yeah, one of the main villains early on is a crazy girl who wants a candy bar from this convenience store that caught her shoplifting prior to the beginning of the purge. She’s terrible. All the bad guys make Bond villains look like completely rational people. Across the board bad.
The heroes do fare a lot better. Grillo is a pure badass and Roan’s quest is admirable, making it easy to want to her to make it through this ordeal. We also have the owner of the aforementioned store who is forced to go on the defense after his insurance company jacks up his “Purge coverage” just a few hours before it all gets underway. …Wait. How does that work? If you’re covered, do you just get a sticker or something that you put up in your window so that people know you’re paid up? So in the opposite scenario, if that lame girl who wanted the candy bar showed back up but the store had actually paid up their insurance, she just wouldn’t be able to do anything? “Well fuck. They have the sticker you guys! Sorry but I guess we might as well just go back home! No purging this year! Gilmore Girls is on though so we’ll just hang and check that out! Sorry everyone!”
I certainly wouldn’t call Election Year a straight-up horror movie. Some horrific things happen sure, but it’s never making much of an attempt to actually be scary. There’s some suspense and some action, neither of which is all that engaging. The political satire angle is interesting but far too on the note. Some interesting imagery, such as the dead bodies strewn about the steps of The Lincoln Memorial, proves to be effective, and you have a likable group at the core, but I still just don’t find these movies that entertaining or interesting.
The Purge: Election Year feels so similar to Purge: Anarchy that I can now hardly differentiate the two in my mind. This one is certainly better than the first, but we’ve already seen the actual purge in action in that second movie and this one doesn’t really bring much new to the idea table. It’s fine, but at this point I don’t know if I would bother watching a fourth installment.