Movie Review: ‘The Purge: Election Year’ is a bloody, ridiculous escape from reality
“The Purge” series is loud, violent and dumb.
It wants to make trenchant points about the dangers of libertarianism and American conservatism but it can’t seem to say anything more nuanced than, “Rraggh! Why don’t you marry Somalia if you love it so much, you junior Hitler babies,” as it wildly punches the air.
In essence, “The Purge” films are the Hulk after he skimmed the first 20 pages of Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of The United States.” Being self-righteous, muddled and thunderously moronic doesn’t change that “The Purge” movies are a lot of fun. Basically functioning as the leftist equivalent to Reagan-era action movies like “Cobra” and “Death Wish 3,” “The Purge” franchise breathlessly chugs along from one outrageous action set-piece to the next.
These movies are, at times, borderline surreal. Early on during “The Purge: Election Year” a group of teenage girls (some in tutus, some in grotesque mascot costumes) assault a convenience store in a VW Bug that’s cheerily festooned with Christmas lights. After threatening to murder the staff for one candy bar, the girls start twirling around to Miley Cyrus’s “Party in the USA.”
Frank Grillo, who played the reluctant hero in 2014’s “Purge: Anarchy,” returns as the head of security for a vaguely Hilary Rodham Clinton-esque presidential candidate (Elizabeth Mitchell in smart person drag with a pair of ridiculous attitude glasses) who wants to put an end to the annual Purge when Americans are permitted to indulge in “any and all crime” within a 12-hour nighttime period.
Mitchell’s opponent – a religious right strawman, Minister Edwidge Owens (Kyle Secor), will stop at nothing to ensure she isn’t elected. Even going as far as repealing the law that protects government officials from Purge night assassinations as well as sending out a white supremacist hit squad to Mitchell’s safe house. Mitchell and Grillo go on the run as they evade shirtless, axe wielding maniacs; red, white and blue colored assault rifle toting Uncle Sams with Russian accents and, of course a pig man with a belt sander.
Lacking the elaborate world building of “Anarchy” (there are fleeting glimpses of this in “Election Year.” Such as the idea of “murder tourists” – that is, visiting Euro trash who participate in the murderous festivities) and broadly underlining the already heavy-handed politics of the first two films, “Election Year” overly simplifies complicated issues, and manipulates its audience in the most shameless way possible. It isn’t enough that Minister Owens and his shadowy cabal of old, rich white men are Neo-Nazis, they also have to be pale, vampiric monsters who are either covered in liver spots or Celtic cross tattoos. There’s still something very cathartic about watching heightened caricatures of Tea Party Republicans get shot in the forehead, stabbed in the throat or blown up by a remote controlled laptop.
It’s fun to explore this violent, improbable world with its alleyway guillotines and murderers casually dancing underneath a corpse-lined tree. How this guillotine manages to get set-up in the middle of the most dangerous night of the year or why other murderers aren’t murdering the dancing murderer while they’re distracted isn’t explained. But then, not much is explained in “Election Year.”
It’s dumb action movie garbage at its most alluring and polarizing. You may hate yourself for liking a movie this stupid, but it’s worth every ounce of self-loathing that will fester inside of you until it takes the form of a stomach ulcer.
Mike Sullivan is a movie reviewer for Weekender. Movie reviews appear weekly in Weekender.
“The Purge: Election Year”
Director: James DeMonaco
Weekender Rating: WWW
Length: 105 minutes