When a Presidential candidate vows to end the annual Purge Night – where all crime is legal for 12 hours – she finds herself targeted by sinister forces
Director: James DeMonaco
Starring: Frank Grillo, Elizabeth Mitchell, Mykelti Williamson, Edwin Hodge
Release date: August 23, 2016
Running time: 109 mins
The Purge: Election Year is the third in a trilogy of films from writer-director James DeMonaco about the annual Purge Night, in which America’s angry, frustrated citizens are granted 12 hours to commit cathartic acts of anarchy, destruction and murder, free from prosecution.
The first film (2013’s The Purge) centred on one man’s attempt to protect his family from a home invasion, while the second (2014’s The Purge: Anarchy) took the action to the streets.
The third film takes a similar approach to the second, but it gains an added dose of political topicality, thanks to the current madness of the upcoming U.S. election.
A lot more plausible
Set two years after the events of The Purge: Anarchy, Election Year centres on Presidential candidate Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell, from TV’s Lost), who’s running against the ruling New Founding Fathers of America with a vow to put an end to Purge Night.
Naturally, the Powers That Be don’t take kindly to this, so they plan to have her assassinated on Purge Night.
With the help of her loyal security expert Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo, reprising his character from Anarchy), Roan escapes a death squad and goes on the run, aided by shop-keeper Joe Dixon (Mykelti Williamson) and his immigrant employee Marcos (Joseph Julian Soria).
It’s rather concerning that The Purge: Election Night seems a lot more plausible as a concept today than it did three years ago, what with the very real possibility of President Trump on the horizon (for heaven’s sake, no-one show him these films).
DeMonaco couldn’t possibly have foreseen the insanity of the current political situation in the U.S. but all the issues he raises, from immigration and racism to the covert control and manipulation of the lower echelons of society, take on an added level of topical resonance that was absent from the previous two films and works well here.
Disturbing and tense
DeMonaco keeps things moving at a cracking pace and maintains a consistently tense atmosphere throughout, while the action sequences are nicely handled.
This time round he’s also added an intermittent streak of dark humour which doesn’t really work. He’s much more effective at producing genuine chills, as he does with a disturbing“murder tourism” segment, in which European hipster thrill-seekers don U.S. icon fright masks (Uncle Sam, the Statue of Liberty etc) and get in on the killing spree action.
The excellent cast are well-chosen, in that none of the actors are famous enough for you to confidently predict that they’ll make it to the closing credits.
To that end, Grillo is on fine tough guy form as Leo, while Mitchell makes a likeable co-lead and Williamson has a nice line in plain-speaking comic relief, nabbing all the best lines as Joe.
This is an engaging, well-made thriller that delivers the requisite quantity of thrills, chills and suspense. Let’s just hope it doesn’t end up as a prophetic vision of President Trump’s America.