The Purge Series is Asking for a Third Term
Directed by James DeMonaco/ 2016
The politics of the Purge films have always confused me. The whole premise of creating a day so that everyone can get out their intrinsic violent tendencies so that they are well behaved the other 364 days a year seems to be a very cynical view of humanity, implying that violence happens solely because we are programmed to be violent, and myopic, not understanding that most crime and violence happens as a result of poverty and the desperation of desperate people caused to do desperate things. A random day of violence isn’t going to solve those deeper societal problems.
Which makes the politics of these films very strange. It’s obvious in these series that conservatives are the punching bags. The organization that created the evening of purging is called The New Founding Fathers of America, an obvious and well-deserved dig at the Tea Party. But, at the same time, the film endorses this organization by pointing out their method works. The film objectively shows that crime has decreased. So the films aren’t claiming that these people are nut jobs with whacky ideas but rather a Machiavellian organization that may take things a little too far.
I think. It’s also a possibility I’m giving too much thought to a series that hasn’t given itself this much thought.
The first Purge was a mediocre and pretentious movie that felt like a poli sci 101 student screaming at you. Purge 2, aka Purge: Anarchy, was a surprisingly good and tight film that gave up those pretenses and actually weaved a decent sequel using good old fashioned storytelling and not civic lessons. Now the third installment, Purge: Election Year is somewhere in between.
Purge: Anarchy’s star Frank Grillo returns as Leo Barnes and is serving as security chief for Sen. Charlie Roan. Roan is an idealistic young politician running for President and taking the country by storm by upsetting the NFFA conservative candidate in some polls. Her main platform promise is to end the purge. Roan has been accused online of being based after both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, though, whether it’s by design or by accident, she is the spitting image of Wendy Davis from Texas.
The film takes place on the evening of the purge just before this election and for the first time ever, no one is exempt, like previously. Not even powerful politicians (how that could possibly have passed through Congress is so far beyond me I can’t comprehend it, considering they still vote to give themselves raises during recessions). Regardless, this puts a big old bullseye on Roan, and by extension, Grillo.
I truly wish Purge: Election Year would figure out what kind of film it is, because there are some great B-movie and exploitation moments to enjoy.
Especially one moment involving a triage truck plowing over a group of intruders followed by some Tarantino inspired female butt whooping. Also the paranoia in the film is palpable.
There are also some moments you can’t help cheer at. African American gangs taking it out on white nationalists. Crazy religious people given the privilege of meeting their maker much earlier than they intended. And so on. Writer/director James DeMonaco always has a special talent of making you forget about subplots and bringing them back at the right moment.
So if you are looking for a fun, exploitation movie and can ignore some dubious and heavy-handed politics, can handle some racial humor that you can’t believe made it past a second draft of the script (“Those negroes are coming for us and we look like a bucket of fried chicken to them”), and have no interest in seeing sad alternatives like the new Independence Day sequel, then there is some value in Purge: Election Year.
And, on the bright side, picking this movie over other garbage out like Independence Day: Resurrection and Warcraft will teach you how to pick the lesser of multiple evils. A true political lesson for November.