With The Purge: Election Year the franchise fully lives up to the potential of its premise as art imitates life.
I’ve loved the idea of The Purge from the very first movie. Not that I want to purge – or believe it should actually exist – but I think the premise is brilliant for a movie. Unfortunately, the first movie was pretty disappointing. To put it mildly!
Despite having Lena Headey (Game of Thrones) and Ethan Hawke (Daybreakers) starring, the only memorable parts of the first movie from 2013, is the awesome bad guy played by Rhys Wakefield (Sanctum). And of course, the only one in the first movie with any common sense whatsoever was the young black man known only as “Bloody Stranger” in the credits.
“Bloody Stranger” was played by Edwin Hodge and by the second The Purge movie (titled The Purge Anarchy) which came out in 2014, he had a new name: The Stranger. This time around, we get an actual name because he keeps fighting the very idea of The Purge. If you haven’t watched the second movie in this trilogy, then you really ought to before watching this latest movie. Don’t worry, The Purge Anarchy was actually really good. And in this latest movie, we finally meet Edwin Hodge as Dante Bishop. However, this really isn’t his movie. He always plays an important part, but never the protagonist – oh well, maybe we’ll get a spin-off that truly tells all of his story!
This time around we follow Leo Barnes, just like we did in the second movie – again, if you haven’t watched it, then you really should. Leo Barnes is played by Frank Grillo and this character truly is perfect for him. He’s the brooding type, but this time around, he has Elizabeth Mitchell (Lost) to push his buttons and make him more of a people person. Mitchell plays Senator Charlie Roan, who is running for president on a platform of being against violence and the concept of “the purge”.
However, in her battle to become president, she’s up against Minister Edwidge Owens, who is all pro-purge and wants to keep the “right people” [read: rich, white, and Christian] where they are. Something the purge is perfect at keeping in check. Sound at all familiar?
The Minister is played by Kyle Secor, who does an amazing job at portraying an entitled, privileged maniac, who will do and say whatever it takes to win. Or actually, he would prefer to hurt people to make it happen. Preferably Senator Charlie Roan, who seems to be gaining on him in the polls.
Is The Purge: Election Year without issues? No, absolutely not. But I thoroughly enjoy the art imitating life portions of this movie. Unfortunately, this goes on to include who lives and who dies… and I would’ve liked to see art leading to way instead of imitating life on that particular point.
There are a lot of really important points about race, immigration, and opportunity. I especially enjoyed Mykelti Williamson’s (Forrest Gump) character, Joe Dixon. Even if he was on the verge of being too campy. Still, it suits a movie franchise like The Purge to take things to the edge and let it linger there. Because really, these days it seems like we are dangerously close to living the purge.
All three The Purge movies have been written and directed by James DeMonaco, and it definitely seems like he finally managed to get his story across with the two latter movies of the trilogy. After the first one, I was so insanely disappointed, but these two last ones have me wanting more. Maybe a backstory or a spin-off telling us more about individual characters. Here’s hoping!
If you watched the first movie and hated it, then please give the other movies a chance. And really, make sure to watch this last one at a movie theatre. It has an eerie feeling you won’t get when watching it at home – even if the very concept of the movie has you wanting to stay away from people in general.
The Purge: Election Year is currently playing in movie theatres in the US.
Director: James DeMonaco
Writer: James DeMonaco
Cast: Frank Grillo, Elizabeth Mitchell, Mykelti Williamson
Years after sparing the man who killed his son, former police sergeant Barnes has become head of security for Senator Charlie Roan, a Presidential candidate targeted for death on Purge night due to her vow to eliminate the Purge.