Just when I thought this gruesome franchise couldn’t get any better. The Purge was certainly a massive pile of shit, put together with weak and frustrating characters, and one of the hammiest villain performances seen on the big screen. And then The Purge: Anarchy came along and blew everyone away with its attention to detail (particularly the Purge itself and the dark secrets forged within). The sequel certainly added much to the structure of this extreme future, and its successor would only delve deeper into the blood-soaked rabbit hole.
Things become really interesting as we travel further into this twisted future than ever before, witnessing a monumental moment where The New Founding Fathers are actually being challenged for their corrupt methods of controlling the US. They become frightened by the possibility that rogue senator, Charlie Roan, may have a chance of beating their guy in the next presidential election (thus resulting in the end of the Purge). It’s an interesting concept placed before us and one that certainly increases the adrenaline of the entire franchise, pushing it to even more intense possibilities.
Of course The New Founding Fathers aren’t going to let Charlie get a chance to beat them, opting to change the rules for the latest Purge Night, resulting in nobody being safe from the festivity. Enter Leo! Frank Grillo happily returns to the franchise in order to be his old badass-self, this time reformed and back on his feet as head of personal security for Charlie. Straight-away you have a new dynamic for Leo to face where he isn’t necessarily in-charge no more. He’s under Charlie’s orders and the two are quick to disagree on actions as Leo tries to be the over-cautious military-man who thinks there’s danger around every corner, whilst Charlie constantly attempts to spread her message by being honest and just.
I suppose it’s rather unsettling learning the reasoning behind Charlie’s hatred of the Purge, with the opening scene depicting a Purger sadistically toying with Charlie’s family, ultimately playing a game of “who lives and who dies”. Leo and Charlie’s relationship develops rather nicely throughout the events of the film, moving away from a professional chemistry to something more personal as they come to understand one another, showcasing their utter respect for each other’s dedication.
Ultimately the shit hits the fan as we delve even further into the corrupt politics and what means they’ll go to defend their way of living. Leo is betrayed and Charlie’s safe-house is compromised, resulting in Leo and Charlie being forced onto the streets of Washington DC and having to face the horrors of everyday folk turning crazy. Things become even more fucked-up in this latest sequel as the Purge becomes a global holiday, encouraging foreigners to come over to the US for the pleasure of joining in killing one another.
The strange part is it makes a lot of sense and actually gives this film more realism, granting a chilling scene where a bunch of Europeans take the pleasure in trying to kill Leo and Charlie (dressed-up as American icons such as President Abraham Lincoln) whilst thanking them for creating the Purge to allow them to “unleash the beast”. It’s rather ironic that they feel the need to thank the Americans for devising this twisted festivity, only to then massacre them to fulfil their own sickening desire to purify themselves.
Like The Purge: Anarchy, we are introduced to some really engaging supporting characters. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that these set of characters are even more developed and interesting than the last two films put together. Instead of having multiple stories crammed together we have just one group of characters who are connected through a local establishment. We have the owner of the shop, Joe Dixon, his assistant Marcos, and their friend Laney Rucker.
Through the first act we are neatly introduced to them, allowing us to understand their connection, their everyday life, and how they are really good people trying to earn a living. But of course the pieces are quickly put together as to how they’ll be involved within the Purge. Pushing the boundaries of how sick and twisted The New Founding Fathers are (and that their goal is to eradicate the lower classes on Purge Night) Joe’s insurance is raised at the last minute, meaning he isn’t covered for any damages. So he is forced to defend his shop by any means necessary.
This then introduces us to Joe’s personal antagonist for the night, a creepy (and extremely psychotic) teenage girl who parades around Joe’s shop like she owns the place. She attempts to steal a chocolate bar and Joe tries doing the right thing by stopping her (doing his best to hold the high-ground) but the girl is clearly unhinged, threatening Joe with “cry rape” if he doesn’t let her have what she wants. This also neatly introduces us to the fact that Laney has a violent history, to which she used to be “the top dog” of the streets, developing herself quite the reputation.
Laney manages to scare the girl off but this only provokes the pyscho bitch to come back with a vengeance upon Purge Night. And boy does she do it in style. Not only is her, and her gang, dressed up like little Prom sluts, but their also packing heat with gold AK-47s, and a pimped-out Christmas vehicle. She even proclaims that she murdered her parents (because why the fuck not, she clearly has crazy written all over her face [and some blood to show for it]). It becomes a desperate attempt to defend the shop, made even more important when Joe and Marcus stumble upon Leo and Charlie (turning their Purge Night into a rescue mission).
The psycho bitch starts chanting as her army of sluts, and reinforced mascots, try breaking into the store. I love how prior to this Leo is stubborn enough to refuse help with his bullet wound (received during their escape from the safe-house after he single-handily took out a bunch of mercenaries) but is put in his place by Charlie, thus reinforcing the fact that he isn’t indestructible. The day is saved, however, upon the arrival of Laney (who was out doing her own personal duties as a Emergency Medical Technician, aiding those in need and preventing Purgers from getting themselves killed). In an extremely badass sequence she single-handily takes out the sluts in spectacular fashion, giving the pyscho bitch a true taste of her own savage behaviour.
Meanwhile, the New Founding Fathers have hired mercenaries to hunt down Charlie. This just goes to show how fucked-up this future is. I mean for fuck-sake, the US is literally built on corruption. The New Founding Fathers can do whatever the fuck they want and nobody will back an eye-lid because the Purge is without consequence, and chances are they’ll come up with the perfect alibi to cover-up their tracks anyway. The whole idea (started in The Purge: Anarchy) that The New Founding Fathers abuse the system to get the result they want is taken to new heights as they attempt at every turn to take down Charlie and ensure that their way of living isn’t disrupted.
I’ve got to give this latest sequel a lot of credit for being even more ballsy with its messages, to which go to the extreme in this one. It all gets too sinister when we finally see what The New Founding Fathers themselves get up to on Purge Night. Like a demented fucking cult they sacrifice people and chant along like “the Good Lord” is blessing their actions like it’s fucking normal, and justified. No it ain’t you fucked-up freaks! If the scenes from the last sequel (concerning the disturbing activities of the rich and powerful) didn’t get under-your-skin, then this surely will.
The mercenaries eventually catch Charlie (which did feel a little clichéd in order to forcefully set-up the third act) and bring her before The New Founding Fathers were they plan to murder her for “the greater good”. However, Leo has teamed-up with the Anti-Purge group from The Purge: Anarchy and reworks their plan to kill the members of The New Founding Fathers into a rescue mission.
What’s interesting with their inclusion was witnessing their side of Purge Night, in which they are just trying to keep people safe. Because (let’s face it) the Purge promotes everyone to go crazy and commit every sin under the Sun, leaving the weak and innocent to get caught in the cross-fire. Women. Children. The elderly. Heck, just poor folk who don’t want to get involved. They’re all at risk from nut-jobs who want to kill for the sake of killing (because apparently the Purge helps stimulate the mind). And as I mentioned at the end of my review for The Purge: Anarchy, it isn’t just murder that is legal, meaning every sick fucker has the perfect opportunity to commit the most twisted acts imaginable without any repercussion (making The Purge films even darker when you read between-the-lines).
Another interesting factor was the third appearance of The Stranger, a character first introduced all the way back in The Purge. He was the guy that the annoying Son let into the house and basically fucked-up his families Purge Night (resulting in psychoses surrounding the house, his father being wrongfully killed, and the neighbours nearly killing everyone because the security systems were down, and the fucking shit never changes his dead-pan facial expression, nor even accepts responsibility for his actions!)
He then returned briefly in the sequel, helping out the raid in the third act against the rich arseholes that tried killing Leo and his group. And now he was the head of the Anti-Purge group, showcasing an unusual (but effective) story-arc which ultimately makes the first film have more merit than it deserves. At least the Son’s actions weren’t totally unjustified because The Stranger ends up doing something important with his life, and didn’t become an annoying tool to create a God-awful movie. And by the conclusion of The Purge: Election Year you find yourself in a place were you rightfully say, “The Stranger Trilogy came to a neat resolution.”
The third act is brilliantly crafted and once again makes you feel satisfied that the corrupt rich bastards get a taste of their own medicine. But you have to sit through a lot of shit to get there, with bloodshed being pushed to the max all around (both sides take a nasty hit). And for good-measure they throw in a fucking corrupt Priest that is brainwashed by The New Found Fathers as he goes bat-shit crazy with a shotgun (and also repeatedly stabbed an innocent man to death whilst The New Founding Fathers cheered with glee – you sick fuckers!)
Also, this latest sequel still had the annoying trait of posing the question of “the Purge is bad, don’t do it”, but this time it was finally done right and with more conviction. Charlie was given this role but because of her past experience with the Purge (as mentioned earlier in the review) and the fact that she wants a clean victory for her campaign, her argument actually makes sense and it’s not being whiny for the sake of being “morally correct”.
Overall, there’s a lot of neat ideas thrown into this third film and (in my eyes) The Purge films are still growing strong. I honestly don’t know where they can possibly go from here (and if The Purge: Election Year ends up being the last film in the franchise then I’m fine with that because it would end things rather poetically) but I’d rightfully go and check out any future sequels to see if they hold the same violent quality and intriguing moments of social commentary. I will admit that I still probably like The Purge: Anarchy a little bit more, but rest assured that The Purge: Election Year is a great successor, granting us a really triumphant ending that opens the door to more violent conflicts beyond the Purge itself.