After a very rough first movie, The Purge series course corrected with the surprisingly fun, more B-movie action schlocky The Purge: Anarchy and while The Purge: Election Year doesn’t quite top it’s predecessor, it’s still a lot of fun and it doubles down on the insanity of both the people Purging and the politics of the universe.
Sometime after Anarchy, Frank Grillo’s Leo Barnes is now the head of security for Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell), a senator who is running for president on an anti-purge campaign and gaining traction against the New Founding Fathers. Deciding she’s too much of a threat, the NFFA publicly declares that there are no exemptions for anyone during this year’s Purge, meaning government officials are vulnerable and, secretly, they hire a white supremacist mercenary squad to kidnap the senator so they can sacrifice her at their annual “Midnight Mass”. Leo figures out what’s going on just in time and the pair are forced onto the streets and into the insanity of Washington DC’s Purge Night. Election Year expands even more on the world building done by Anarchy, as the New Founding Fathers are an actual presence as opposed to just a vague threat and you get to see what the resistance setup in Anarchy does as well, like setup underground hospitals/safe havens for the homeless and poor who are unable to hide during The Purge. Director James DeMonaco hits full throttle on the political subtext, which is basically just text in Election Year, and every hot button issue is at least mentioned, if not taken to insane ends. The NFF are all rich, white religious fanatics and The Purge is explicitly to thin out anyone who would need government assistance, which is why they were able to “save” the country when it was on the brink of financial ruin. The phrase “99%” is used all the time, is basically what I’m getting at. There’s also new concepts introduced like “Murder Tourists”, who are rich assholes from Europe who come to America specifically on Purge Night to kill.
Frank Grillo is great as usual but he doesn’t do too much different from Anarchy with the exception of having the new responsibility of defending the senator. He has plenty of opportunity to take down Purgers or militia, digging bullets out of his shoulder and everything else a good B-movie action hero should be doing. Elizabeth Mitchell is also great and instantly likeable and root forable as Senator Roan, although her opponent in the election is basically frothing at the mouth evil, so even Trump would be likeable next to him. Leo and the senator are assisted by some of the few good people on the streets during The Purge, including Mykelti Williamson as Joe, who owns a local deli. The real standout though is Betty Gabriel as Laney Rucker, a bad ass who drives around on Purge Night in an armored ambulance offering aid and delivering people to the aforementioned underground shelters. She has what is the easily the most satisfying kill of the movie when she takes out a group of spoiled bitches who make the girls from My Super Sweet 16 look like Benedictine monks. A lot of the kills by our heroes are satisfying because of how cartoonishly, over the top evil everyone who isn’t them is but it works in the heightened universe of The Purge.
The Purge: Election Year is not quite as good as Anarchy, which benefitted from being such a massive improvement over the original movie. There’s a vague setup for a sequel at the end of Election Year and it did well at the box office, so I would be down for more, especially if Frank Grillo keeps coming back.