It’s another year, and another Purge – which usually means the poor/vulnerable getting brutally hunted by the rich. The only thing different this time for writer/director James DeMonaco’s latest flick in the saga, Election Year, is it’s rather poignantly about a US election, with one candidate for the mass 24-hour killing set against one very much against the injustice. The rest is lots of privileged people revelling in the blood let – and still poor Frank Grillo having to risk life (and limb) getting ‘innocents’ to safety.
Senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell) remembers her family being ‘purged’ (slaughtered) in the past on the legalised night of crime and is determined to put an end to this ‘law’ if elected to US President. The trouble is powerful parties – and her political opponents – have vested interests in keeping the 12-hour killing spree going and have put a price on her head in this year’s annual Purge.
After an attempt on her life a few hours after the siren sounds the start of the killing spree, she goes on the run with Leo Barnes (Head of Security played Grillo) and crosses paths with an underground group run by the elusive Dante Bishop (Edwin Hodge from the first film), who wants to go after her opponents and their supporters. She needs to keep alive during the next 12 hours and win the election.
The chilling theory behind the Purge stories still holds eerily strong; the idea that ‘somehow’ a nation’s social problems can be erradicated by erasing groups reliant on the state’s welfare. It’s absolutely this that DeMonaco relies on to justify his series further, as the rest is more of the same. Albeit this time, there is an attempt at a more serious side in 2016 election year, which often comes across as (unintentionally) comical in delivery.
There is a rather solid character in Sen. Roan though, a ‘hero’ fighting for the less fortunate, and the kind we’d like to rally behind in a world in turmoil in reality. Mitchell plays her tough and soft sides simultaneously in a plausible manner. Her tough guy and protector Grillo slugs it out like some kind of gruff, youthful Falk/Columbo in tow.
The ‘dry’, sardonic quips are provided by Mykelti Williamson as shop keeper Joe Dixon who peppers the dialogue with racial ‘digs’ that outstay their purpose. We ‘get’ who some of the most disadvantaged groups are in the USA today. It doesn’t have to be spelt out in the script every time his character is in the frame.
There does seem to be less visible bloodlust this time around, and more running/driving around. However, one pesky teen brat does gleefully get her just desserts for being a tad annoying, even though the set-up is sensed a mile off. Another humorous/dark side is visiting ‘murder’ tourists that DeMonaco is keen to comment on. Sadly, this feels shortlived as they merely serve as padding/fodder, even though this is an intriguing by-product of the Purge.
Fans will get more of the same, plus equally despicable, hammy characters to like/loathe in Election Year. Whether the idea of setting it in election year will draw a greater audience is unlikely, but it certainly feels very topical – if not for mask/outfit inspiration come October 31st.