The bloody catharsis chronicles | The Purge: Election Year

3/5 • There’s no beating around the bush when it comes to the ‘messages’ the film wants to convey – be they a jab at economic inequality, racial tension or the debate around gun control – but this is to the film’s credit

teodor_reljic
Teodor Reljic
13 September 2016, 10:40am
The murderbabes attack: The Purge: Election Year takes America’s cultural mores to a ludicrous but logical conclusion
The murderbabes attack: The Purge: Election Year takes America’s cultural mores to a ludicrous but logical conclusion
Genre cinema has always been a great place to comment on current affairs without boring your audience or dividing them with any clear ideological agenda, and this third instalment in The ‘Purge’ franchise is a clear and entirely unsubtle example of how this possibility can be kicked into full gear.

Set in 2022 and following on from two previous entries in the ‘Purge’ series – released in 2013 and 2014 respectively – The Purge: Election Year finds a populace that’s tired of America’s latest suspect pastime: that of allowing all crimes, murder included, to be legal for one night. This 12-hour total amnesty is officially put in place to ‘purge’ the nation of all of its submerged negative feelings, but in reality appears to exist primarily to wean off the lower social orders who can’t afford to shield themselves adequately during this night of mayhem.

And come election time, one candidate, Senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell), appears to be willing to stand tall against the barbaric practice, though discontent is also bubbling underground, with anti-Purge rebel leader Dante Bishop (Edwin Hodge) advocating about how the ritual is only there to thin out the low-income class so that the government elites have less mouths to feed.

But when the NFFA, the current ruling party helmed by their new leader Minister Edwidge Owens (Kyle Secor) decide to take matters into their own hands, it falls to the indefatigable (Frank Grillo), Roan’s head of security, to make sure she stays alive and remains a ray of hope.

Against all odds: Frank Grillo and Elizabeth Mitchell
Against all odds: Frank Grillo and Elizabeth Mitchell
Meanwhile, Roan and her cohort are joined by a convenience store owner, Joe (Mykelti Williamson), his young employee Marcos Dalie (Joseph Julian Soria) and a Purge old-timer and medical expert Laney Rucker (Betty Gabriel) who have been driven to take matters into their own hands after the political system – ruthless economically as it is literally – chews them out precisely on the day of the Purge.

Director James DeMonaco, who has also helmed the previous two editions of the ‘Purge’ franchise, returns to an extreme world he’s already set up and cracks it up to eleven, taking full advantage of the contemporary American zeitgeist by timing the release of his film right before what promises to be – for better or for worse – a pretty spectacular real-life election for the country.

There’s no beating around the bush when it comes to the ‘messages’ the film wants to convey – be they a jab at economic inequality, racial tension or the debate around gun control – but this is to the film’s credit. This is ultimately a piece of raw genre fiction, and if it is to comment on contemporary realities, it should do so in its own, gloriously unrefined way.

Some refinement on the technical front would have been welcome however, as a murky colour palette, some infelicitous and cheap-looking slo-mo and a generally dull approach to the visual storytelling waters down what could otherwise have been a truly memorable hi-octane ride. But that’s not to say that it doesn’t have its flourishes, like the indelible image of the Christmas-light covered car crammed with scantily clad murderbabes hiding behind the most lurid masks you can imagine.

And luckily, the script – also written by DeMonaco – chugs along at a good pace. The set-up is simple enough to begin with, so which allows the twists and betrayals to come quick and fast without making a mess of things.

Though it suffers slightly due to its lack of real star power and some patchy special effects work, The Purge: Election Year is a satisfying piece of pulp that’s also got something to say.

teodor_reljic
Teodor Reljic is MaltaToday's culture editor and film critic. He joined t...