The Purge: Election Year movie full length review - Three strikes, DeMonaco, now will you please get a career change
Years after choosing not to kill the man who killed his son in a drunk-driving accident, police sergeant Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo) becomes the head of security for United States senator Charlene "Charlie" Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell), the front runner in the next U.
S. presidential election. Due to her vow to eliminate the Purge after losing her family to sadistic murderers on the night of the Purge several years earlier, Barnes continues to campaign against the Purge after witnessing the deaths during his night on the streets years prior. The government secretly opposes Roan's campaign, and plots against her to keep her from destroying the Purge. On the night of what could be the final Purge, a betrayal from within the government at the hands of the New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA) forces Barnes and Roan out onto the streets, where they must fight to survive the night, and come across a group of anti-Purge rebels that support Roan's campaign.
The concept of the Purge series, while admittedly absurd, is a compelling one. It could work as a dark comedy rich with jet-black, balls-to-the-wall satire on America today. It could also work as a straight crime drama focusing on a character outside during the night of the Purge questioning whether it's right or wrong. As a horror film, it doesn't work at all. The first Purge is nothing more than a scare-free, nonsensical home invasion thriller backed by the dumbest characters you'll ever see in a horror film and a pretentious script. The sequel Anarchy wisely takes the action to the streets, but the change in setting doesn't result in a better film. You still couldn't care less about the characters (with the exception of Frank Grillo's Leo Barnes), the attempts at social and political commentary and satire are empty-headed and beaten over your head like you're an idiot, and the terrible CGI blood and gore are just the icing on the manure sundae. We have now reached #3 in this franchise and James DeMonaco still tries to have his cake and eat it too. Needless to say, he desperately needs a career change.
First of all, the writing. It's terrible. You don't care about the characters. Other than Leo, it's hard to get invested in any of them. Elizabeth Mitchell's character Charlie Roan is sorely underwritten and it's such a waste of her talents. Every other character that isn't these two is either annoying or just plain boring. I can't even remember their names. That's how forgettable they were. There's also some awful comic relief in here to boot. The dialogue is godawful. Three of the worst offenders have to be "I like black people but these are my white people," "There's a whole lot of negroes coming this way and we're sitting here like a bucket of motherf*cking chicken," and "I ain't thinking about nothing but waffles and pussy."
Once again, attempts at social and political commentary and satire on the current state of America fail miserably. Not only is it empty-headed, not only does the way it's written make DeMonaco come across as the dumb kid in school who thinks he's smarter than everyone else, not only is it shoved down the audiences' throats, but it also comes off as massively hypocritical. Why? Because DeMonaco revels in the same senseless carnage and gratuitous violence that his script supposedly condemns.
The plot tries to be an urban action thriller just like Anarchy, but with more of the horror elements from the first film sprinkled on top. It's because of the failed attempts at commentary and satire and the boring, poorly written characters that you never get emotionally invested in the plot and story at hand. We also have unnecessary, badly thought out subplots that DeMonaco forgets about. It's also hard to take what's going on seriously when everything is so over-the-top and cartoon-ish, especially the villains. One character Purges over a candy bar (no, I'm not making this up, it's really that stupid).
Like Anarchy, instead of using practical effects, the filmmakers use horribly rendered CGI for the graphic bloody violence and gore and it looks atrocious. All of the action scenes are boring. The camera- work courtesy of DeMonaco and cinematographer Jacques Jouffret is decent occasionally, but it's mostly quite poor, almost to the point of being incomprehensible. The horror elements fail as well, relying on cheap, lousy jump scares instead of actually building up tension and creating atmosphere.
Really, the one thing I like in this film is the acting. It's good for the most part. While Elizabeth Mitchell, Mykelti Williamson, and Raymond J. Barry are stuck playing thinly written nothings, all three of them deliver fine performances along with Frank Grillo. When Grillo's being a bad-ass, he really sells it, bringing a lot of intensity and conviction. Based on his acting in this, the last film, and the last two Captain America films, I can see this guy playing an amazing Frank Castle in a Punisher film. I know it will never happen, but hey, I can dream, right? The musical score by Nathan Whitehead is also pretty solid.
In summary, James DeMonaco wants to have his cake and eat it too for a third time, and it's at this point that he should give up because it's never going to work. The Purge: Election Year is yet another poor installment in this atrocious franchise, once again wasting good actors and delivering tenfold on awful dialogue, boring characters, and empty-headed social commentary. Screw this series.