The Purge Election Year (**) Trying to wedge social commentary into a horror film

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The Purge Election Year – 2016

Written and Directed by James DeMonaco
Starring Frank Grillo, Elizabeth Mitchell, Mykelti Williamson, Joseph Julian Soria, Betty Gabriel, Terry Serpico, Edwin Hodge, Kyle Secor, Raymond Jay Barry

So these films aren’t getting any better. They aren’t getting any worse, either. For every unique shock death we see in the distance, we get a steady dose of cliche up front. This time, we have a character from the previous film, Barnes (Grillo). He is the chief of security for (seeming Dem) Senator Roan (Mitchell). Roan experienced tragedy thanks to the purge 18 years prior, which gave her the drive to try and stop it through Congress. Grillo also had a background story in the last film, but that has apparently become irrelevant.

Opposing them, of course, are the white guy Republican-types from the first two films who sit in their ivory towers (or Catholic Churches) and pray / prey their way through the purge on the power of the almighty dollar and some type of understanding of human nature that eludes the heroes.

To make the evil more diverse, we get South African “Murder Tourists” who are there only to collect scalps. I am pretty sure all of these guys are relatives of the South African guy from Lethal Weapon 2 who had “diplomatic immunity.”

We also have some samaritans, grudging (Williamson) or otherwise (Gabriel) who help the good guys after their impenetrable fortress is penetrated. This leads us to the base of the resistance and Dante Bishop (Hodge), who was the kid that ran into the house in the first purge, endangering the family. He’s been fighting the power since then, and its about time they kill some old white males, don’t you think?

If you think I am ruining this for you, then I am sorry. This movie wrote itself easier than Griffin Mill with a room full of yes men.

The film is not lacking for acting talent. Mitchell, Williamson and Grillo are all capable and Gabriel has a kinetic energy that could be magnificent if used correctly. That they are slightly better than caricatures is by no means a result of direction or plot.

The films all have a real distinct look. The masks add a bland malevolence that promises chaos. Instead we get moments of carnage in between statements about unwritten rules that essentially, counter the whole idea behind the event.

If they really wanted to improve these films, they’d drop the politics and ramp up the creativity. Give it less a feel of government crackdown and more a sense of random chaos that can’t clean up after 12 hours.

The story is seemingly complete with this one. But who’s counting? When you make as much cash on the barrell as these films do while under the pretense of having a political point, why not keep pumping these films out. There will always be more old white people waiting in Catholic Churches.

(** out of *****)

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