The Purge: Election Year full movie review - The Purge: Election Year Continues to Explore a Great Horror Concept With a Heavy Political Slant
I think it's cool that this franchise seems to be evolving to what the fans want. I didn't like the first Purge movie but I did want to see where the idea would go.
So the movie going public seemed to collectively say "make another one but go bigger, show it on a national scale." That's exactly what they did with The Purge: Anarchy and it was much better. The Purge: Election Year is more about the political side. It's pretty topical and The Purge franchise has always worn it's politics on it's sleeve so you have to accept that going into it. With the election in the U.S.A. coming up, there is a lot of good material to tap into so I was eager to see where it would go.
*Minor Spoilers Ahead* We actually start the movie pretty far back in the past. A family is tied up on their couch, they are bloody and bruised and have obviously been tortured already. The villain has a mask on and is rocking out hard. He's enjoying himself and talking about how careful he was in selecting specific songs for his Purge playlist. He tells the family that they have arrived at the final purge game, he tells them only one of them is going to survive the night and that the mom gets to choose.
We then flash many years ahead of time (approx. 15-20) where the NFFA (New Founding Fathers of America) are running into problems. The word is out about the Purge, how the government is using it to eliminate the lower class. A political candidate running as an independent Senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell, Charlie was the same little girl from the opening) has gained enough of a following that she is threatening to win the election and to topple the current regime being led by Minister Edwidge Owens (Kyle Secor) and the NFFA. Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo) is the head of her security team. He supports her completely but he's annoyed by her disregard for protocol. Meanwhile, the NFFA are less than pleased for sure and decide to have her taken out on purge night.
In the spirit of the previous film, we don't just follow Charlie and Leo. Also in Washington D.C. a shop owner Joe Dixon (Mykelti Williams) and his hired worker Marcos (Joseph Julian Soria) are anxious about the upcoming purge. Joe's purge insurance has been raised exponentially and he cannot rely on their protection. To make matters worse, there's a couple of teenagers with attitude to burn who are trying to shoplift from his store. If not from some help from Laney Rucker (Betty Gabriel) they might have got away with it. Laney is already busy on Purge night running a triage van, Joe and Marcos resolve to come back and protect the store.
This franchise expands the mythology and keeps expanding it's world with each passing movie which is impressive. Sometimes when it comes to sequels, the studio and the creative team are just content to just repeat the same formula. Not in this franchise. In this one, people are travelling to the U.S. to be part of The Purge, people are trying to make money off it with elaborate costumes and offering services for money like body removal. It's cool that James DeMonaco and his team aren't just content to coast on what they've built and try something different each time.
The Purge: Election Year also represents a change of genre. The first Purge was a straight bottle horror film. The Purge: Anarchy brought more action in but still was survival horror. Election Year is an action movie with horror aspects. There's a few cheap jump scares but anything that's meant to be scary is more through the imagery. I have to commend the people who designed the sets, the costumes and even the cinematography. The designs are more freakish and the costumes while outlandish are very creative and are creepy as hell.
So while I want to keep heaping praise on this, I'll get into the more mixed aspects here. Starting with the plot, the direction they decide to take it in is interesting with the fight against the purge actually forming. The character development hasn't been the deepest throughout the franchise but I think this one takes a step back with the exception of Charlie and Leo. I just didn't care as much for guys like Joe, Marcos and Dante compared to the characters of the previous entries. I also thought the dialogue was pretty bad throughout. I felt bad for Mykelti as so much of his dialogue is very hokey and cringe-worthy at points. So while there's some new and interesting stuff in the writing, it's not all great and not every aspect of Election Year is exponentially better.
I think that with the acting you get 2 really good acting jobs and the rest are a mix of okay to bad. Frank and Elizabeth carry the movie, they're the most believable and you want to follow them. I don't want to blame Mykelti and Joseph too much , they're saddled with some lacklustre parts of the script. The villains (the NFFA and the evil purgers) were overdoing it but in a weird way it fit the movie. This movie is far from subtle and their performances were consistent with that.
When it comes to The Purge franchise, I think that Anarchy is still the best entry. Anarchy completely achieved what it wanted to achieve and was a deeper movie than you would think at first glance. The Purge: Election Year builds on the groundwork of the first 2 movies well even though it has some setbacks. With the heavy political message it conveys, it won't please everyone and I understand that. I'm up to see another entry though and watch where The Purge will go next.