You had one job, "The Purge: Election Year," just one. You either needed to be a schlocky gorefest that painted America as a candy-colored nightmare of xenophobia and fear or a smartly satirical look at the worst case scenario of Trump's America. You failed at both, "Purge," and I hope you feel bad about it.
The scenario is simple. For 12 hours, one night a year, all crime is legal. Some people use the night for revenge. Rich white folk hide behind their thick steel gates, and bad folks dress up like it's Halloween and throw murder parties. The first movie failed at its own premise by focusing on an upper class white family whose home is invaded by some psychotic preppy teenagers.
"The Purge: Anarchy" ventured outside and showed us a nameless badass on the hunt for the man who killed his child. Nameless Badass got sidetracked and ended up helping people instead.
"The Purge: Election Year" sees the nameless badass (now called Leo) as the security chief for Sen. Charlene Roan, a presidential hopeful who is campaigning on ending the Purge. There is also a shady mix of Old White Men called the Founding Fathers who are pushing their own candidate, Minister Owens, a religious zealot who believes The Purge is God's will.
Thrown into the mix are wisecracking deli owner Joe, his newly naturalized assistant Marcos, and ex-killer/current EMT Laney. They team up with Leo to protect Roan, as she might be the only hope for a future without The Purge.
With a cast made up of mostly people of color, a premise built around taking the piss out of politicians using religion as a weapon and the timing of this current political climate, this film should have been a slam-dunk. Most people go into "The Purge" movies expecting some intense action and violence, but all the chances to mount a criticism against xenophobia and ignorance are basically wasted. The film could easily have been both smart AND bloody without alienating either audience.
The largest problem is that the script is too sloppy for any attempt at deep social commentary to land. As a thriller it's too poorly paced to be intense, as a horror movie it's toothless, and there are too many CGI explosions and blood splatters to work as an action movie. The characters are inconsistently written, so all of their choices feel as if they are in service to the script instead of themselves.
As our characters drive through the streets seeing people with terrifying masks and killing each other in bizarre and macabre ways, it's hard not to wish we were following those stories instead. Violent unpredictability is what makes these movies work, yet the entire film feels like a haunted house with a very specific path we're forced to walk through.
There are a couple of fun jump scares and dozens of great ideas, but they are all in service of a lazily constructed, forgettable piece of cinema. Even with all the solid performances, "The Purge: Election Year" will be forgotten as quickly as the current news cycle.
The Purge: Election Year
Dir. James DeMonaco
Now playing at Old Mill Stadium 16 & IMAX