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Movie Review: The Purge: Election Year

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Certificate 15, 109 minutes

Director: James DeMonaco

Stars: Frank Grillo, Elizabeth Mitchell, Mykelti Williamson

The Purge: Election Year is the third in The Purge series of films. Set in a United States of a not too distant future, it is a country that every year undergoes something called the Annual Purge. Once a year, for twelve hours, all crime, including murder, is legal. No police, fire or emergency medical services are available. Citizens "purge" themselves of all their negative emotions by going on violent and twisted rampages, by and large whilst wearing masks and costumes - it is described as being Halloween for adults. Foreigners from other countries - "murder tourists" - came to America so that they, too, can take part in the Purge.

The film opens with a masked so-called "Purger" in a home with a family - parents and a teenage son and daughter. The family is all battered and bloody, and for the final event of the evening, the Purger says that the mother can decide which person in the family can live. Seventeen years later and the daughter, Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell), is now a very young U.S. Senator and a ridiculously young (she can't be more than her mid-thirties, going by her apparent age at the beginning) presidential candidate. It's two days before the Annual Purge, and Senator Roan's main campaign platform is the promise to abolish the Purge.

The Purge: Election Year
There have been riots in Washington, D.C. and protests led by Dante Bishop (Edwin Hodge) under claims that the Purge is done for economic reasons more than anything else. Those with lower incomes suffer more at the hands of Purgers, and killing them off means that money can be saved on welfare, healthcare and housing. Roan is running as an independent candidate against Minister Edwidge Owens (Kyle Secor), the current leader of the country and the candidate for the NFFA - the New Founding Fathers of America, the political party that created the Purge and who have managed to keep control of the country for 25 years. The New Founding Fathers appear to be without exception all white, and with one token exception all men.

Roan is doing very well in the polls, gaining ground against Minister Owens. In fact, she only trails him by one point. The NFFA's leader, Caleb Warren (Raymond J. Barry) - the leader of the party is not the person who won the election - is really not happy about the prospect that Roan might defeat them. So he sees the upcoming Purge as a means to eliminate the Senator. One day before the Purge, the NFAA announces that the rules have changed, and government officials of level ten and above (which presumably includes Senators - and, for that matter, the NFFA themselves) are now no longer exempt from being Purged. Which means that Roan's life is at risk.

Roan's head of security, Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo, Captain America: Civil War, Captain America: The Winter Soldier), wants the Senator to evacuate to a place of safety. She refuses, saying that running and hiding would lose her votes, and that she's going to stay at home. Leo is not happy about this as, even though the house is then fortified and surrounded by armed guards and snipers (who look just a little vulnerable on the outside), he still considers it to be vulnerable. Aptly so, as it happens, although not for the reasons he thinks. Meanwhile, some of the television debates are being watched and discussed by Joe Dixon (Mykelti Williamson), the owner of Joe's Deli, his assistant Marcos (Joseph Julian Soria) and their friend Laney (Betty Gabriel). this all seems a bit irrelevant, but this is foreshadowing for later.

Unfortunately for the Senator, she has been betrayed. A group of well armed men who, despite being plastered with white supremacist and neo-Nazi logos and tattoos - and apparently called "White Power" - are a rather professional bunch of mercenaries. Her guards, with the exception of Leo, are all quickly eliminated, and Roan and Leo end up going on the run. Naturally, they end up running into Joe - he has stayed behind to protect his shop, because his Purge insurance was cancelled, in particular from a teenage shoplifter called Kimmy (Brittany Mirabile) who took being told to put the candy bar back quite badly - and Marco, who has joined him. Laney, who has a bit of a reputation, is out in an independent ambulance that helps people who have been injured - as no official help is available.

Leo and Roan are on the run, and Earl Danziger (Terry Serpico) and his neo-Nazi mercs after them, through streets that are already dangerous, with Purgers out maiming and killing. It's surprising anyone really manages to survive a night of this, including the Purgers themselves. Although they largely pick on easy targets. Leo, and their new found friends, need to keep the Senator alive until the Purge is over, as she may well be able to win the election and change the country.

The film is often quite violent, which isn't surprising as all crime is legal, and far more violent than the first. In the original film, the violence wasn't widely seen, as the family was trapped in a house. In this one the protagonists are travelling through the streets, and they get to see the violence close up, from people using a guillotine to kill people to strapping people to the bonnet of their car and killing them there. There are a lot of people who incidentally die in the film, to rub home just how dystopian a future it is. Yet, rather worryingly, it is a future that is, in many ways, not that dissimilar to the present. There is the occasional flash of what can only be called humour ("I won't let you kill these white folks. These are our white folks").

The characterisations are all fairly stereotypical. Senator Roan is the woman with a cause who won't set aside her principles, even when it would make life both easier and safer. Leo is the paranoid and guarded man protecting her who believes in her mission. Joe is the gruff, yet goodhearted stranger. Laney is the woman with darkness in her past (although, truthfully, everyone except Roan out of the primary characters has done some things they aren't happy about). Marcos is the young man who wants to see change.

This is not, by any measure, a subtle film. The violence is very in your face, and there are a lot of bad people who, on a normal day, would probably also be quite normal. On this day they are violent murderers. The plot is at times a bit hackneyed; there are the customary sacrifices (and a couple of these will probably raise justifiable questions from a percentage of the audience). It is very much running aor4und whilst trying to stay alive when nearly everyone is out to kill you, either because they've been paid to, because you threaten their power base - or simply because they think it's a fun thing to do. The Purge: Election Year is not a nice film, but it isn't supposed to be, is often quite brutally violent, and presents a worrying glimpse of a potential future if things go in certain directions.
The Purge: Election Year egdcltd 2016-09-09 3.5 0 5
3.5/5
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