Sunday, August 7, 2016

THE PURGE: ELECTION YEAR

I got tired of waiting for this movie to come out, so I asked Santa Claus and he gave me it for free.


I am a big fan of high concept, low-budget genre movies -- especially those which dabble in a slightly scoff-postapocalyptic vein. Think Escape From New York, Mad Max, or Dredd.

The premise behind The Purge is insane. Following a revolution, the New Founding Fathers have instituted The Purge -- a national holiday during which all types of violent crime are encouraged. For 12 hours from the night of March 21st to the morning of the 22nd, you can settle a grievance, steal something you can't afford, or engage in whatever deviant urge floats your boat.

II'll be honest --  I haven't seen The Purge. The premise sounded boring, and the reviews didn't help.

I did see the sequel, The Purge: Anarchy, which was really fun and over-the-top, and felt more like a genuine attempt to tackle the premise the first film hints at. Purge: Election Year seemed to be in the same vein.

Now onto their third instalment, the makers behind The Purge franchise continue to show up their bigger budget counterparts in world building. Part of the fun of these movies is the way filmmakers have been able to overcome their limited budgets to convey a world beyond the movie.

The Washington DC of The Purge: Election Year continues the series tradition of nightmare urban landscapes -- lit by neon, and filled with medieval tableaus of murder and mayhem.

And like the films I just mentioned, the makers behind The Purge: Election Year know that they need a special kind of anti-hero to survive this hellscape, and they have the perfect man for the job.



Following his barnstorming turn in The Purge: Anarchy, real life badass Frank Grillo returns as Leo Barnes to kick ass and take names. He is now the head of security for a presidential candidate running a platform to end the Purge.


Played by Lost's Elizabeth Mitchell, Charlie Roane's family were killed in an earlier Purge. She hopes to end the Purge and restore the country from the dystopia it has become.

The establishment - old, white, religious and male -- want her dead. They change the rules so that public officials are no longer exempt from the Purge -- putting Leo and the senator in danger.


Made by the same team as the first two films, The Purge: Election Year is a blood-soaked, pitch black  b-movie. It's also a totally ham-fisted satire about the current state of American politics that has no subtlety whatsoever.

In any other movie, that would be a problem. Here, it is totally appropriate.

The movie's plot is really simple. Like a classic exploitation movie, it boils down to a series of set pieces.

We get a group of European tourists, who are in DC for a bit of holiday purging. Dressed as American icons like Uncle Sam, they form part of one of the film's more debauched and surreal sequences.

In another scene, our heroes hide in an ambulance while two street gangs stage gladiatorial matches nearby.

One building's residents have built a swinging scythe ala The Pit and the Pendulum that swings across a tight alleyway.

A Russian uses a drone to target his victims. We know it's Russian because he screams in the language over a loudspeaker and plays shitty Russian techno music. Subtle, this movie ain't.


Best of all, we get a group of psychopathic schoolgirls with one hell of a sweet tooth. After they get caught shoplifting  candy at a convenience store, they return in a car covered in lights blaring Miley Cyrus' 'Party in the USA' and hefting AK-47s.

They want candy, they want blood, and not necessarily in that order.

It's nuts, it's stupid, it's amazing -- this scene completely sums up the movie.

In terms of the Big Bad, the New Founding Fathers have been in the background up until now, and The Purge: Election Year tears the curtain away to reveal them in their full, rancid glory.


Earlier, I mentioned how there is no political subtext here -- every jab at contemporary US politics is obvious to the point of parody. In the hyper-stylised context of The Purge, anything else would come off as underwhelming. Roane's opponent Edwidge Owens (Kyle Secor) is an amalgamation of a few recent candidates' less appealing policy positions and beliefs. To ram it home, the filmmakers make him an evangelical preacher who characterises the Purge as a mechanism for humanity's god-given imperfections. 

The cast here are solid. Grills remains a charismatic action hero and, off the back of The Purge flicks alone, deserves bigger roles (he would make a great Jack Reacher). Mitchell is terrific as his idealistic charge, and maintains the film's sole concession to credibility.  

Of the rest of the cast, the standout is Mykelti Williamson. Doomed to be forever remembered as Forrest Gump's friend Bubba, Williamson has a great time as Joe, the owner of the beleaguered convenience store. He gets all the best lines, and is the instigator of the psycho schoolgirls' siege of his business.

Overall, The Purge: Election Year is a great exploitation flick. In a year of underwhelming blockbusters, it is an appealingly small scale, simple genre exercise that gets the job done and doesn't hang around longer than it needs to.

If you enjoyed the last Purge, this will be right up your alley. Even if you haven't seen the others, this one is still worth a watch.

Here's hoping for Purge 4

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