The Purge: Election Year
Two years after choosing not to kill the man who killed his son, former police sergeant Barnes has become head of security for Senator Charlene Roan, the front runner in the next Presidential election due to her vow to eliminate the Purge.
Directed by James DeMonaco
Written by James DeMonaco
Starring Elizabeth Mitchell, Frank Grillo, Mykelti Williamson
I’m not even going to lie: there will be spoilers. I’m not going to dance around the niceties. If you want to go see this movie blind, stop reading, but be sure to come back afterwards and see how your experience differs from mine.
Ready? Then let’s go.
Let’s get it out-of-the-way right now. The concept behind the Purge is an intriguing one, but after three movies, Writer/director of all three of the films, James DeMonaco, still hasn’t hit on a good way to show a story built around this central conceit of the New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA)
imposing instituting the annual Purge “holiday”.
The original film was a perfectly serviceable home invasion slash fest, but one which effectively disregarded the idea of the Purge except for the beginning and the very end of the film.
The second Purge, Anarchy, took us outside into the wider world of the new America, witnessing the country’s further decent into—yes—Anarchy. But we’re still left feeling as though we’re missing some essential element of why the Purge is happening on the scale it’s happening. There’s no requirement to purge, although you know there would be a small group of people so mentally deficient or desperate that they might undertake a mission to revenge themselves on someone, or just kill that neighbor that borrows your tools but never brings them back, but really, most people would simply bunker up, hunker down and wait it out.
Regardless, Anarchy is a heavy-handed allegorical tale about how white people—all white people—are evil creatures only concerned with themselves and literally chomping at the bit to kill non-whites. That’s it; that’s the whole movie, and done with such a heavy-handed and conspiracy theorist-style bluntness of dialogue that it almost seems to be more a parody of the situation the country finds itself in, instead of a thoughtful, yet still frightening, examination of serious societal issues
Finally, Election Year, taking place 25 years after the NFFA took power, with Purge survivor, Senator Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell), running for president and vowing to eliminate the Purge, as it is now widely seen as a tool the elites use to keep the lower classes manageable and affordable for society. Closing the gap to a possible victory over the NFFA candidate, she is marked for death by the NFFA, who use the very arguments of class inequality in the Purge being leveled against them to remove the protections afforded governmental officials for this year’s Purge. No one is exempt. You can see where this is going: a group of hired mercenaries fail to kill/capture her at her safe house after she is betrayed by her own people, and she is forced out into the streets to try to survive the night with only super-soldier Leo (Frank Grillo) to help her.
The problem with this film is that DeMonaco is so far gone into sociopolitical proselytizing that there are no characters left who can be taken seriously. Every black character is a parody of either a seventies “good guy” or a militant, black panther-esque revolutionary. Every white character is old, rich, and would literally not think twice about lining up poor and/or black/brown people and killing them for fun.
Although, now that I think about it, there is actually one character who can be taken seriously. It’s not Senator Roan, it’s Marcos. He’s from Mexico City and has been a citizen of the U.S. for two years. That’s two years a citizen of a country two decades into the Purge. When he fires a rifle to help protect his boss’ deli from invading black schoolgirls (so pop-culturally infused with entitlement as to be laughable, yet insane), he calmly remarks that “Every day in Juarez is like the Purge.” And he still wanted to come to America. And he doesn’t even say it ironically. For him, it’s simply a fact he had lived with his entire life. Here, DeMarco seems to undo the very political rampage the rest of the film is on.
DeMarco has created an America so evil, so perverted from it’s original premise as to be virtually unrecognizable, and people would still rather be here than anywhere else. And, lest you think that DeMarco is only targeting white Americans, he introduces the concept of “murder tourism,” where groups of people fly in from around the world to take part in the Purge. He focuses on a group of white Europeans being interviewed at the airport, of course, and it’s no surprise that they are later gunned down by Marcos and Joe, his boss, as they try to kill Senator Roan and Leo.
A kidnapping, an intended sacrifice on the altar of the Purge, a rescue, and the election of Roan as president, and we are left with the knowledge that the Purge will soon be gone. The film ends as news reports of NFFA supporters rioting in opposition to losing their “right” to purge begin to filter in along with election results.
Again, an opportunity missed to address some real social issues with what is still an intriguing concept in world building. But don’t take my word for it. The real proof of that missed opportunity? The audience was laughing during the screening, which means that your script and characters have failed to connect in a meaningful way with the audience, but are instead simply caricatures (bad ones) of stereotypical cut-outs plugged in to a wanna-be “movement” piece.
And that’s a shame.