The Purge: Election Year
2016, PG-13, 103 min. Directed by James DeMonaco. Starring Elizabeth Mitchell, Frank Grillo, Mykelti Williamson, Raymond J. Barry, Kyle Secor, Edwin Hodge.
REVIEWED By Josh Kupecki, Fri., July 1, 2016
I don't know what pleasures you may find in The Purge movies, but mine have always been in the manifestation of right-wing Facebook memes writ large on the big screen, delivered as satire, but so wanting to eat that ironic cake, too. The premise itself reeks of a study group/bong session of undergraduate psychology students: One night a year, people can unleash their ids and do whatever they want: murder, rape, mayhem, etc. to cleanse them of their urges, thereby making for a society bereft of crime, strife, and unemployment. The first film introduced the concept, while the second expanded the universe, and brought a focus to who was actually being purged (spoiler: poor people, mostly). This new entry leans on a political bent, hopping on the coattails of an actual, this-is-reality shitshow that is the American political landscape circa 2016, but, you know, taken to the extreme.
But not really, as presidential hopeful Charlene Roan (Mitchell), running on a platform to end the Purge, is not Hillary Clinton, much as her opponent Edwidge Owens (Secor) is not some amalgam of a dickless nutjob. Roan finds herself in the midst of it, as she and her security officer (Frank Grillo, a tether from the last film) are double-crossed and on the streets of Washington, D.C., during the Purging, thanks to Caleb Warrens (Raymond J. Berry, who has played calculating, evil characters for so long that I will never trust him). They get some help from Mykelti Williamson (seemingly wandering in from his role on Justified), and everyone ends up in a sewer surrounded by masked crazy people. It's populist agitprop at the basest level, and the opportunity for a smart, razorlike dissection of contemporary issues falls away at every opportunity to gratuitous scenes of excessive violence (not that there's anything wrong with that) that render any message or subtext completely reductive. It's the narrative equivalent of Twitter: so much there, but nothing going on.