Polls suggest more carnage
The dystopian B-movie franchise ventures into the world of politics for its third outing as the series’ innovative, thought-provoking scenario of all crime being legalised for 12 hours is taken to a new level.
Feeling more like a direct sequel to the second flick – and moving even further away from the confined original – Election Year ratchets up the violence and gore as Frank Grillo’s vigilante-turned-security agent Leo Barnes returns with a vengeance.
This time around, Leo’s efforts to survive Purge Night also sees him having to protect Senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell), a Presidential candidate targeted for execution due to her vow to eliminate the Purge.
The politics on display feel worryingly contemporary and relevant in a world where America is being hit with widespread racial tension and forced to listen to the extreme views spouted by Presidential hopeful Donald Trump.
But returning franchise writer-director James DeMonaco doesn’t delve too deeply into the rights and wrongs, and possible solutions, of his version of a broken America; it’s just an excuse for his characters to fire some guns and do everything they can to stay alive.
Leading the way is Grillo who, thankfully, follows on from his supercharged performance in previous entry Anarchy with another turn rocking with hard-boiled charisma. It’s a pity Marvel have introduced Jon Bernthal as The Punisher on TV’s Daredevil as Grillo would’ve been perfect in the role if the comic book studio ever decided to introduce a more adult chum for the Avengers in their cinematic universe.
Series newbie Mitchell also impresses as an idealistic senator with a tragic backstory who retains her morals in the face of increasing levels of darkness and debauchery.
The rest of the thinly-drawn characters come and go without making much of an impact and the film stalls too often for chat when it should be motoring forward.
The action becomes pretty repetitive too with an overreliance on shoot-outs as Leo and friends stumble into face-off after face-off, and some of the double-crosses can be seen coming from a mile away.
Fortunately, DeMonaco knows how to scorch a memorable image into our brains; masked teenage girls rolling up in a car decked out in Christmas lights wielding guns and the world’s creepiest church sermon just two examples of the director at his best.
The opening bloody home invasion is affecting horror cinema and the idea of “murder tourists” a chilling glimpse into what it could be like to live in a world like DeMonaco’s creation.
The climax hints at more to come – and even greater carnage.
But if the Purge series is to progress to a fourth film and beyond, it will need that freshness as the formula is becoming a little stale.
Gun for hire Frank Grillo (Leo Barnes) prepares for battle