The Purge: Election Year | Film Review | 3*

the purge election year poster

As we enter election year, and the third film in the Purge trilogy, the annual purge is now a well established part of American life – so much so, that so called ‘murder tourists’ are even travelling to the US from overseas to take part in all the fun – and it’s all down to the New Founding Fathers.

But, the country is waking up to the Purge, what it’s doing to society’s most in need, and how the people in power are the ones benefiting from the violence.

The third film in the Purge trilogy occurs in election year, and sees Senator Charlie Roan (played by Lost‘s Elizabeth Mitchell) in the middle of her attempt to become President. She is the voice of reason, pledging to rid America of the Purge when she rises to power and save the country’s soul – all motivated by the trauma of watching her whole family die during Purge night eighteen years ago. This ruffles the feathers of the New Founding Fathers and the film follows her trying to survive the night, as well as those that help her along the way.

One of those people is her head of security Leo (Frank Grillo) who we first met in the previous instalment, The Purge: Anarchy, where he helped other Purge victims whilst going through his own journey to avenge the death of his son. Having not gone through with his crime, he instead now backs the Senator’s vision of ridding America of the Purge and giving her protection to enable her to do so.

Other stories come into play too – there’s Joe and Marcos, the two shopkeepers defending their business against murderous teenagers, their badass friend Laney that roams the streets delivering first aid during Purge night, and Dante Bishop, the leader of the underground revolution against the Purge.

The best thing about this Purge movie is that it feels bigger than the other two – it’s tackling how the Purge affects society on a much larger scale, and we see it’s impact on the country as a whole rather than just an individual story. The plot is good, because the Senator is at the heart of it – you can feel that there is more at stake, that she’s to be protected and that she can make a difference, and that’s the first time we’ve actually seen a glimmer of that in the Purge.

Some are calling it the best film of the three, and it does feel like we’re finally really starting to explore the concept. It certainly outdoes the second movie, but comparing it to the first Purge feels like apples and oranges (or crossbows and chainsaws, if you want to stay on topic). The original film works as it’s own movie because it’s the world of the Purge, but on a much smaller, more claustrophobic scale – whereas Election Year is something else entirely.

The pace of the story really works and is outlined effectively; we understand the Senator’s story and the setup to Purge night without it being dragged out, and we get to the Purge action nice and quickly (which it kind of feels like you’re waiting for).

Elizabeth Mitchell and Frank Grillo give the best performances here – Grillo is good at continuing his role as a surly antihero who suspects everyone, and we think Mitchell is strong at conveying both horror at the violence, but the drive to make a change.

the purge election year

However, we weren’t so keen on others, especially Joe. If we’re honest, he gets increasingly irritating as the film goes on, continues to utter racial slurs that seem out of place, and detracts from the better parts of the story.

Dialogue is what really lets the film down; it’s seriously clumsy and cheesy in parts, especially between the characters from the deli. It feels really quite laboured, but smart writing isn’t what you’re watching The Purge for.

What you do watch The Purge for, however, is the 12 hours of anarchy that occur every year on Purge night, and it certainly delivers on that – though it’s definitely a sideline to what’s happening with the Senator and the bigger picture overall. Though no bad thing, this is a significant difference to the other 2 movies, where seeing new ways that people ‘purge and purify’ made up the majority of the thrills.

We’re big fans of the whole Purge concept – it’s unique, it’s interesting and it tackles real world issues – and so we thoroughly enjoyed this film. Groundbreaking cinema it is not, but an entertaining watch it certainly is, and there’s a twisted cartoonish aesthetic to the trilogy that makes it stand out from the crowd.

The third Purge gets 3* from us. It’s better than average, not quite excellent, but worth seeing if you’re a fan of the franchise.

Here’s the trailer – The Purge: Election Year is in cinemas now.

(Images from here, here and here)

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Sophie Butcher

Writer, media graduate and marketing manager with a love for escapism through quality film and TV - and then writing about it. Blogging, always.
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