DIR/WRI: James DeMonaco • PRO: Michael Bay, Jason Blum, Andrew Formm, Bradley Fuller, Sebastien Lemercier • DOP: Jacques Jouffret • ED: Todd E. Miller • DES: Sharon Lomofsky • MUS: Nathan Whitehead • CAST: Elizabeth Mitchell, Frank Grillo, Mykelti Williamson, Joseph Julian Soria, Betty Gabriel
A film’s plot structure is a bit like a Jenga tower; if it only takes a few blocks to send the whole thing tumbling down, then it probably wasn’t well constructed in the first place. Such is the flaw with James De Monaco’s Purge series. However hard these films try to convey hard-hitting social commentary under the guise of a slasher-horror flick, they are doomed to fall under the weight of their own premise – which doesn’t make a damn lick of sense.
In this dystopian future, all crime- murder, robbery, torture, you name it – is made legal during one night of the year, resulting in record-low crime rates and unprecedented economic growth during the other 364 days of the year. Unrest is being to ripple underneath the surface however, as it turns out that the Purge was conceived by the ruling New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA) as a means of wiping out the poor and the destitute for the benefit of the richer echelons of society. Because, well, obviously. When the NFFA find themselves faced with a powerful opponent in the form of anti-Purge Presidential candidate, Senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell), they decide that a bit of government ‘cleansing’ might be called for. And what more convenient time for it to take place than during Purge night? There’s also a subplot involving humble deli owner Joe (Mykelti Williamson), his loyal employee Marcos (Joseph Julian Soria), and their friend, the once-legendary-Purger, Laney (Betty Gabriel), who rally together to survive the Purge. The plots converge when Joe allows the Senator and her security guard, Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo), to seek refuge is his store after Roan’s safe-house was infiltrated by a group of assassins sent by the NFFA to dispose of her. Thus the rag-tag bunch find themselves not only fighting for their own lives, but also the future of the entire country.
Though there is as much blood and gore as one would expect from such a concept, the film’s main concern lies entirely in spouting its jingoistic rhetoric with lazy political metaphors and clunky dialogue. But then it’s easy to be morally righteous when the antagonists of your story are little more than moustache-twirling vaudeville villains. To be fair, while it is not executed as effectively as it could have been, at least this newest instalment of the series sees director and writer DeMonaco attempt to push the concept of purging to a higher level, trying to examine the economic and cultural impact it would have on a society far more so than the previous two films. One of the more interesting concepts introduced within the film was that of ‘murder tourism’, wherein people from all around the world travel to America specifically to take part in the Purge and get a free pass to kill as they please. Alas, DeMonaco simply does not push the bar high enough to redeem the many gaps of logic that exist within this world. Several times throughout the film, characters will do something or a series of events will unfold in a certain way that, instead of shock or horror, will just elicit of strong sense of ‘Huh?’ from the audience.
But the film’s worst crime by far? It’s boring. Boring, boring, boring. Other than a few precious scenes, the cinematography is dark and unpleasant which, rather than adding to the tone of the film, repels the eye from the screen. Just ten minutes shy of two hours, the film also overstays its welcome by a good fifteen minutes. As a result, everything feels tired by the films third act. The shocks are dulled, the fighting sequences are a drudge to get through, and the inconsistent camera work becomes a headache to comprehend.
Overall, The Purge: Election Year definitely aims higher than its predecessors but ultimately becomes too weighed down by its nonsensical premise and over-enthusiastic political commentary to be anything close to insightful or scary.
16 (See IFCO for details)
The Purge: Election Year is released 26th August 2016