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The Purge: Election Year review

Title: The Purge: Election Year

Director: James DeMonaco
Writer: James DeMonaco
Release Date: July 1, 2016
Cast: Frank Grillo, Elizabeth Mitchell, Mykelti Williamson, Joseph Julian Soria, Berry Gabriel, Edwin Hodge

The Purge: Election Year Cliff’s Notes

The Powers That Be want to use the annual Purge to take out an anti-Purge presidential candidate. Luckily for her, she’s hired a head of security that hates The Purge just as much as she does. And luckily for us, there are folks out there that want to help them make it through the night.


Ahhh, The Purge. It’s been a while since I’ve spent time in the near future USA. Alas, I’m not really the hugest fan of the series. I thought the first Purge was an okay home invasion thriller that never really capitalized on it’s awesome premise. The second film, which did finally get us into the middle of the action, struggled heavily in terms of tone, pacing, and character. You can imagine that I walked into The Purge: Election Year with a touch of apprehension. And what did I get?

Pleasantly surprised, that’s what I got. The Purge: Election Year takes its ideas and runs with them. This isn’t the land of subtlety, no. This is the land of screaming choices and blaring music and The Purge rocks it like hardcore. The action scenes are brutal, vicious, and cathartic. Likewise, this puppy rocks the jump scares like no one’s business. The design was, as it has been for the entire series, fantastic and the anarchistic look of DC during the Purge was more than enough to get the creeps going. Add to that a slew of vicious purgers doing what they do best and you’ve got one hell of a set up.

But what really makes this flick work is the heartbeat underneath it. It’s as if the crew behind the film looked at their previous work and said “This, this needs more heart.” and decided to deliver in spades. The duel story lines give us not only the logical response to legalized crime, but also show the emotional effects of living in a world that embraces violence.

We get a crew of characters that  are developed, layered, and flawed. This means that they’re struggling to overcome exactly what the Purge has in store. It’s not subtle in the slightest, but The Purge: Election Year is asking difficult questions about what it’s like to hold on to the past and what it’s like to purge it from our systems. This is satire, no doubt about it. But here, it’s done so well that it enhances the flick, not pull away from it.

Everything coming up roses? Not quite. First, some of the actors who made up the smaller roles needed to tone it down a bit. We went a little too far in the hamming it up. Secondly, and more on the sour side, the transition from the second act to the third act needed some help in the pacing department. This puppy slowed to a crawl for about five minutes which really worked against the film. Both of those things sound rather nit-picky, and they are, but that’s what happens when the rest of the flick is this strong.

Overall, The Purge: Election Year is exactly what it should be: a vicious satire that is hell bent on making statements. Luckily enough, it’s also a story that focuses on violence and what happens when you allow yourself to give into it as well as responsibility and the decline of American politics. I certainly wasn’t expecting the second half, but now that it’s here, I’m thrilled to have gone along for the ride.


Across the board, the main cast was top notch. Mitchell, Soria, and Gabriel were all spot on and managed to not only bring the horror goodies to the table, but lifted a surprising amount of drama into the proceedings. Grillo does his loner type one more time and nails it yet again. One of these days someone is going to make a Bioshock: Infinite flick and he’s my vote for Booker DeWitt.

Williamson takes what could be a really annoying character and really rocks it. He gives a layered, occasionally hilarious, performance that really brought a lightness to the film that the second film desperately needed. Hodge is back and, as always, bringing a level of awesome to the film. It’s been a joy to watch the character evolve over the three films in the series and there’s no better testament to the power of the purge than this guy.


Most of DeMonaco’s work is spot on. He rocks the action scenes, keeps the tension high when he needs it, and manages more than a few jump scares. The guy has really polished his work over the series and The Purge: Election Year is easily his best effort. Alas, he’s still really fond of the hand held camera and, especially early on, it’s a little iffy.


Most of the time, this is a well structured, nicely done piece. DeMonaco has learned from his previous work and has delivered a story that is both broad enough to match his awesome premise but focused enough to have it hit home. He’s solved his characterization issues – these folks are fleshed out and well defined – and manages to keep the tone bearable and the pace solid. Sure, it falters a little at the top of the third act, but most of this puppy is a ride!


We’re getting bloody this election day! We’ve got stabbings, gunshot wounds, bullet holes, explosions and one heck of a knife fight. There’s also a decapitation that isn’t the best, but it’s one heck of a joke so I can let it pass. Not overly dependent on the gore, but it all works.


It’s hard to pin down just one of the action bits and say it’s the best. At this moment, I’m going with the knife fight. The flick had been building up to it and cashed in for the win.


I don’t know who handled the ADR on this puppy, but they needed a little help. I heard lines without seeing lips moving on more than one occasion. Ho-hum.

Final Thoughts

We finally have a Purge movie to love! This puppy is well done, runs to the hills with its satire, and is a massive action/horror flick to boot. Check it out on the big screen ’cause it’s time to Purge!

Grade: B

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