By: Akram Shaban
The Purge: Election Year is the third installment of The Purge series of movies. I don’t know much about the series; I only watched half of the first one before turning it off, and I didn’t know the second one even existed. Admittedly Election Year is not as bad as I had anticipated. But it still manages to annoy you with cringe-worthy acting, dialogue, and plot.
The concept is interesting. One night of the year, all crime is made legal for 12 hours. All emergency services like fire, ambulance, and police are shut down until the end of the night. The purpose is to cleanse society of built up aggression, to serve as a measure for population control, and create peace. I guess it’s based on the survival of the fittest concept.
The implementers of this brilliant idea are the new founding fathers of the United States. They are the ruling party and aren’t above dropping political correctness and speaking freely. I’m not going to say that there may be a correlation to current events in the States, but there may be a correlation to current events in the States. In Election Year, the reign of the new founding fathers is threatened by an anti-purge presidential candidate, Senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell). She’s gaining a lot of traction and has a good chance of winning. So the new founding fathers need to do something about it. If only there was a way to eliminate one’s enemies in the universe of the movie. Oh, wait…
There is something quite artistic about the movie. It follows the lives of seemingly ordinary, and unrelated individuals. One is Joe Dixon (Mykelti Williamson), a Deli owner, who can’t afford “purge insurance” because his provider raised his premiums the day before. Another is the plot of the Senator who wants to win. And I forgot the third. Maybe I’ll remember it later in the review. A huge theme in the movie appears to be innate and repressed psychopathology in people (perhaps all people). It surfaces in some form across all the predictably entangled plots.
The issues I can’t reconcile are whether or not the stupidity of this movie can be written off as satire or parody. The acting does not redeem it. The script is somewhat funny but unintelligent. The speeches made by the politicians are bad and filled with clichés. You may believe that this reflects on how bad speeches are in real life. But they aren’t. I say it is just bad writing. The comedy is there. There are tons of obligatory black guy jokes. In fact, they are distractingly frequent. It’s as if they couldn’t find another way to insert comedy into a whatever-genre-this-movie-is.
Joe the Deli man is targeted by a bunch of teenagers who tried to steal candy from his store. They return on purge night dressed like Miley Cyrus, with flashy weapons and chainsaws. They’re determined to get their candy bar. They make some really ugly crazy person faces, to make it clear how cognitively disassociated they are. At that point, the Senator and her bodyguard, Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo) have joined Joe the Deli man. I won’t spoil how that happened. But it gets really intense, especially when Laney the badass (Betty Gabriel) shows up. She arrives just in time and effortlessly obliterates the threat. But it isn’t the “she does some crazy, mind blowing, back bending, walks away from the explosion but doesn’t look back” kind of effortless. It’s the “this was way too quick and easy, was there even a threat in the first place, why couldn’t the other characters do this themselves, all she did was fire a shotgun, the others have plenty of guns,” kind of effortless.
There were moments in the movie that reminded me of The Matrix. Like when the characters are just standing there, shooting at one target, emptying entire clips, with a pause for reloading, and then returning to spraying bullets. But that is for artistic style. It’s cool. In this movie, I don’t know what to make of those scenes. The most prominent one is in the Cathedral. So look out for it if you decide to watch it.
The concept for The Purge is actually kind of cool. It’s a chance to explore an idea that addresses real human struggles and philosophies. But then the movie turns into a joke, and you really can’t take it seriously. So it becomes confusing as to what the point is. The center-point is not the action, nor is it the gore. There are no phenomenal acting performances. The script and plot don’t make you go WOW! There aren’t even any super cool cinematography techniques or sound editing for the film geeks to enjoy. It’s just forgettable.
Oh well, can’t wait for the fourth one. The Purge: Election Year gets a grade of D (4.0/10).