For those of you that don’t know, I wasn’t that huge a fan of the Purge series. The idea can be fun in a twisted sort of way. I mean, a whole day where crime is legal, even murder? Not the worst idea for a sick movie, but probably difficult to pull off. The first movie proved it, and in a fairly lazy way. The first film, to me anyway, was just a standard slasher horror film with a “crime is now legal” mytho. There was no point in that backstory. I love Lena Heady as an actress, even Ethan Hawke, but with the exception of the bad guy, I thought this movie was dull.
The sequel felt more like what THE PURGE was supposed to be. A guy roaming the streets of a city coming into contact with other “Purgers” (don’t remember if that’s what they were called) and wasn’t confined to one setting. You got to see other people killing and looting. Plus, I enjoy Frank Grillo as an actor. But beyond him, the film was overall pretty forgetful. Like… I don’t remember anything specific, other than a resistance movement at the end.
Now we have a third installment and while I’m excited for the inclusion of Elizabeth Mitchell, whom I have had a massive crush on since her TV days on LOST, I still can’t shake that this movie doesn’t know what it’s own idea is and that it’s still taking itself way too seriously. But in any case, I was hoping for good performances to save the flick, not a good story. So, do Mitchell and Grillo get my vote for “most awesome pairing,” or it this election as silly as our current one with Donald Trump? This is my honest opinion of THE PURGE: ELECTION YEAR.
America is on the brink of change thanks to the efforts of one brave senator, Charlie Roam (Elizabeth Mitchell), who is trying to end the annual Purge: the one night where all crime is legal, including murder, all in the name of expunging the violence in our souls. However, as Charlie’s campaign for the elimination of The Purge seems to be in the bag, the New Founding Fathers of America (the NFFA) decide that this year’s Purge will be special: no political figures are exempt from being Purged. This puts Charlie on lockdown and her best defense is her trusted bodyguard and fellow Purge survivor, Leo Barns (Frank Grillo). But when the NFFA turn to dirty tactics by hiring ruthless mercenaries to get at Charlie directly in her home, she and Leo must escape into the bloody night of carnage and death. With the help of deli owner Joe (Mykelti Williamson), his assistant Marcos (Joseph Julian Soria), and EMT Laney (Betty Gabriel), they must survive the night so Charlie can put an end to this one horrible night that costs America is very soul.
While I can’t deny that I got what I wanted in some aspects (solid performances from the core cast) and even some improvements over the original two making this latest installment the best of the franchise, it’s still not… good.
So let’s start with what I liked.
Yup, Mitchell and Grillo are my favorite parts of the movie, simply because of fandom. Charlie is this no nonsense politician actually trying to make a positive difference in America (proving without a shadow of a doubt that this is a fantasy film because no politician goes for that) even if it means at the cost of her own life. She’s constantly between a rock and hard place throughout the film, surviving The Purge like everyone else so can continue her crusade, but she can’t retaliate against the NFFA because it goes against everything she’s trying to accomplish: an America without the need to resort to violence to solve problems.
However, due to her unorthodox methods of constantly challenging the NFFA directly and putting herself in danger even during peace time, this makes her consistently difficult to protect. And that’s the primary source of Leo’s headaches, who is still awesome. He’s that kind of guy that is always prepared for the worst case scenario. Got a group of guys surrounding the senator for protection? No trust for you, fuckers! Hidden passage! I love characters that are prepared like that.
One of the better elements that I wish I saw more of was how the two worked together. There’s a scene where Charlie and Leo are followed by a drone from the mercs and Charlie gives Leo the exact distance away from them and how high up it is, and he shoots the drone right out of the sky no problem. I love when writers are considerate enough to maoe sure in survival situations that the characters actually work together as a team. I think I see too many stories where someone in the group is too much of a hinderance in their survival that you just want the idiot to die so the bad-ass can live.
And another shout-out to Williamson, Soria, and Gabriel for handling their roles really well too. Joe is a very sympathetic guy as well as the comedy relief, so his comments are always welcomed when he’s on screen. Marcos is probably a nice representation of minorities able to succeed in America despite asshole politicians trying their damnest to get in the way. Finally, we have the resident (Marvel’s) Punisher of the group, Laney. If Grillo ever had a run for his money in bad-assery, it’d be this bitch-shootin’ gal. Driving around trying to help people one minute, then pulling out shotguns and blowing faces off. Don’t piss off EMTs, I guess.
But I’ve gone on long enough about the characters…which was all that was saving this movie.
At the end of the day, this movie is still pretty forgetful. I mean, I’m all for over-the-top, bat-shit crazy performances like Raymond J. Berry was trying to portray, but I think it’s a little too out of place simply because the rest of the movie doesn’t really follow suit. In a movie like JUPITER ASCENDING, Eddie Redmayne’s performance isn’t weird to watch in the grand scheme of things because the rest of the movie is reliant on the audience believing that bees can sense royalty in humans, that rulers want to marry their reincarnated mothers, among so many other silly things that flood the movie. That’s the continuous problem with The Purge franchise. There’s not enough silly for these films to work, despite how silly the premise is. Like all the rest, it takes itself way too seriously and needs to overhaul itself to embrace it’s stupid-but-fun ideas. Instead, audiences get a little too much politics and a little too much strategy that even the crazy visuals won’t hide how lame these movies are.
I can’t deny that at least we’re getting better characters, but now we need a consistent environment that suits what these films feel like they should be going for. In the end, it’s just too unimaginative to revisit. I love Mitchell and Grillo and the rest of the core cast, which prevents me from hating it, but it’s still hard for me to enjoy the movie as a whole. I think if you’ve been a fan of the franchise thus far, you’ll be fine with this one. It’s more or less the same as the last. But if you’re like me and you want something a little more than what’s delivered, you’re not missing much by staying home.
My honest rating: a weak 3/5
- OUR KIND OF TRAITOR
- THE BFG