Though it is only the third film in the popular franchise, 'The Purge: Election Year' largely takes place in 2040, eighteen years after the first Purge movie and seventeen years after Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo) decided not to give in to vengeful rage in the sequel, 'The Purge: Anarchy'. In that time, things have moved towards great potential change, as Senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell), a survivor of a particularly brutal Purge Night, seeks to become President and put a stop to the yearly "festivities"...
...An endeavour that, predictably, doesn't sit well with the current powers that be.
As was the case in subsequent seasons of '24', the biggest difference is the location. Instead of Los Angeles, the action this time takes place in and around Washington D.C. Equally following the pattern established by '24', Frank Grillo (Captain America: The Winter Soldier/Civil War) is once again out on the streets, joining up with a ragtag bunch of supporting characters as he attempts to fend off violent menaces and protect lives. Like Kiefer Sutherland's long-suffering character, Jack Bauer, Leo story is even entwined with the political machinations of others and has a presidential candidate to protect.
Equally good is Elizabeth Mitchell ('Lost'), as the aforementioned senator. Whilst she is mostly around to be protected and drive the film forward, Mitchell imbues the character with strength, resilience, and pathos. Steadfast in her beliefs and convictions, she is often the heart of the film, a moral compass from which the aforementioned hope stems as she battles tooth and nail for what she deems to be the soul of her country.
The rest of the cast are solid across the board. Each gets a moment to shine - Kyle Secor is deliciously over-the-top as Charlie Roan's political rival, Joseph Julian Soria and Mykelti Williamson bring added warmth and the majority of laughs as the relatable everymen, and Betty Gabriel gets easily the most crowd-pleasing moment as the compassionate yet badass Laney Rucker - but unfortunately spends most of the runtime as little more than background noise. Betty Gabriel especially, is held back from delivering what could have been a truly landmark female role model, seamlessly being unafraid to do what needs to be done but eager to help those in need.
With Election Year, James DeMonaco clearly tried to inject the level of humour and satire people called for as vehemently as they called for a broader spectrum of chaos after the original film, most of it feels tacked on and goes nowhere. The rest of it has a hit or miss ratio that would put numerous baseball players out of work. There is an attempt at a message, but far too much of it is lost beneath the violent - as well as haunting - visuals that they seem to be trying to rally against.
The inclusion of Edwin Hodge from the first two films, finally given a name here, will try to convince you that there was a plan the whole time, but behind the smoke and mirrors lies a constant state of course-correction. As such, the franchise could - and most likely will - outlive us all. Whether it actually should though is no doubt a question that will be on most people's minds upon leaving the cinema, especially given how neatly Election Year could serve as the solid conclusion.
Both puns very much intended.
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