By Reid Ramsey (July 4, 2016)
During “The Purge: Election Year” a character describes a politician as a “devious, duplicitous, bigoted mother f*cker.” At this point during the screening I went to, another audience member yelled a single name: Trump. If ever social commentary and relevance through art is lost on an audience, it is not with “The Purge: Election Year.”
Unfortunately, cultural relevance does not make a film good. The movie takes place in a not-so-distant future where the government, who calls themselves The New Founding Fathers, initiates an annual event called The Purge. Every year when The Purge begins, citizens legally can commit any crime, including murder, with no repercussions for a twelve hour period. The protagonists of this third installment are Senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell) and her security guard Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo). The NFFA targets the senator on the night of The Purge because she is seeking election and vows to rid the nation of the bloody event.
Despite the politics being (shallowly) discussed, the filmmakers opt for shock instead of suspense. This may not seem like a big deal, but the unearned jump scares are draining and ineffective. The weird dichotomy between a movie ultimately beautifying the violence it works hard to condemn distances and neutralizes whatever effect the movie wanted to have on the audience. The most memorable moment of this was the slow motion dropping of an anvil on an unknown character’s head.
The standout of the movie (and the audience I saw it with would agree, I’m sure) is Mykelti Williamson. He plays Joe, a store owner who wants to protect his store on Purge night. He eventually ends up with the Senator, helping protect her and apathetically helping to dismantle the NFFA (year, I know). The screenplay is unforgiving to Joe, giving him some of the worst and most ridiculous lines, but Williamson delivers every absurd line with a hilarious conviction that lit up the screen and kept the audience engaged.
The third installment in the Purge franchise is the worst but also the most politically engaged. As everyone has been saying since the first one came out: There is a good horror movie to be made in this franchise, but this isn't it.