The Purge: Election Year opens with a flashback: a family of four falling victim to The Purge, with only the eldest daughter surviving. Flash forward to the present: the lone survivor is Senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell, Lost), a presidential candidate whose major campaign platform is that she will end the annual Purge. Having been tragically affected by it nearly two decades earlier, Charlie felt it to be her responsibility to put a stop to this gruesome tradition. It is, as the title suggests, election year, and the annual Purge is about to begin. Roan’s head of security, Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo, Zero Dark Thirty) and his team prepare the necessary arrangements to keep Roan safe in her home for the twelve incredibly dangerous hours. Roan is a clear target for the violent propagators of The Purge, as she is nearly in the position of power to end it. Just as The Purge begins, Roan’s safety is compromised. She and Barnes find themselves relying on three unsuspecting heroes: Joe (Mykelti Williamson, Forrest Gump) who owns a deli, his protege Marcos (Joseph Julian Soria, Camp X-Ray), and their badass friend Laney (Betty Gabriel, Experimenter). Leo, Joe, Marcos, and Laney have to team up to keep Senator Roan safe, so she can live on and put a stop to The Purge once and for all.
Following the pattern of the two previous movies in its series, The Purge: Election Year was not good by any stretch of the imagination. Its interesting concept is the only thing it had going for it from the start. The Purge, as a means of killing off the poor and saving the government money, clearly has political implications that are more poignant with election year upon us in reality. But even that doesn’t do much to save it. The film’s one redeeming quality is Laney’s character. Having a badass female character with no romantic subplot is essentially unheard of, so props to writer/director James DeMonaco for that. Additionally, it was a little hilarious to see people being shot down on streets that I’ve driven up and down thousands of times (given that it wasn’t real people, of course).
The acting was the film’s lowest point by far. Sure, Frank Grillo can look like a renegade fighter while beating up Purgers, but he couldn’t deliver lines for shit. Even Elizabeth Mitchell, who has been decent in some films, was dragged down by the lack of authenticity coming from the entire cast. Every “crazy” Purger gave a laughable performance, unintentionally coming off as funny rather than sinister. These performances that totally missed the mark confused the film’s genre: at some moments it seemed like a genuine horror/slasher film, but at others it felt like a parody of that very genre which was certainly not the goal.
The Purge: Election Year, at one hour and forty-five minutes, felt like an eternity. An eternity full of rapid-fire violence, cringe-worthy one-liners, and cheap jump-scares accentuated by typical horror film sound effects. Go see it if you feel truly compelled, but I would’ve been pissed off if I paid to see this film. As always with this franchise, the premise was way more interesting than the film turned out to be.