I will start with this, while this article contains SPOILERS, as there will be references to events and characters in the film that can be considered as SPOILERS. If you wish to go in to the film totally surprised, it’s best you come back after viewing the movie. Still with us? Good, lets get started then shall we.
What goes down:
“The Purge: Election Year” has officially hit theaters, and it brings with it the same violence fans of the series have come to expect from the films. And it has brought back its main character from the second installment, Leo Barnes, played by Frank Grillo.
A few years after sparing the life of the man who killed his son, Leo has found himself a job as the head of security for Senator Charlie Roan, played by Elizabeth Mitchell. Senator Roan is one of the two primary candidates for the upcoming presidential election, with one major difference between her and her opponent. Roan wants to rid the country of the annual purge, as she lost her entire family to its gruesome and violent nature eighteen years prior. She also sees how the government is using it to rid the world of the poor, to help save money on things such as housing.
Her chief opponent is Minister Owens, played by Kyle Secor. The Minister, as he is often referred to, is all for the purge, and is the hand picked choice of the government to win the election and become President. This would allow the new Founding Fathers to retain the purge, and proceed with their mass killing of the poor every year.
The events of the film get going upon an assassination attempt on Senator Roan on the night of the purge. From that point on Leo and Roan are on the run, gaining some new friends along the way, while attempting to avoid being slaughtered by the new Founding fathers, as well as the raging purgers in the streets.
Along the way they gain some friends, whom Leo is hesitant to trust at first, which is understandable given his past with people stabbing him in the back. Those new friends include Joe, played by Mykelti Williamson. Joe is the owner of a local deli, which he holds near and dear to his heart. His employee and friend, Marcos is played by Joseph Julian Soria. Marcos came to America from Mexico about seven years ago, after fighting for his survival and learning how to be a damn good shot with a rifle. He is a strong supporter of Senator Roan, as he wants the purge to end. Then their is Laney, who is like family to Joe as well. Actress Betty Gabriel portrays the tough women who now goes around on purge night to help the injured as she goes around in her armored van.
Together these three help Leo in his efforts to protect the Senator’s life, as they all know she is the key to ending the purge. They come across multiple threats along the way. There are the purging tourists as well as the crazy chick who really wants to steal a candy bar from Joe’s Deli. The assassins sent out by the new Founding Fathers are also on the hunt for the group, and it is this group that ultimately captured the Senator.
With the help of Dante Bishop, portrayed by Edwin Hodge, and his crew, Leo and the gang are able to sneak into the church where Roan is being held. At the end of the mission we are left with quite a few dead bodies, including some of the core characters, but Senator Roan lives to see election day, which she wins.
The film does end the series at an interesting point, as the franchise can still move forward, but in an altered direction. If the film does well at the box office, which I expect it to given its low budget when compared to other big films, a fourth installment is not out of the question. The cliffhanger is there, as the radio mentions the members who were in support of the purge were starting riots, thanks to the Senator winning the election and putting her plan to ban the purge into effect. So the question remains, can we have a purge film without the purge itself?
I was pleased with the portrayal of all of the characters in the film. Frank Grillo is perfect for the role of Leo, and I am glad he was brought back. The first and second films had no real connections between the characters, but bringing Grillo back to reprise his role gives the franchise some much needed connection. Leo is a tough and rugged guy who trusts no one. His past has taught him that he can only trust himself, which is evident by the trap door he kept secret from his men early in the film. His reasoning and desire to protect Roan is well routed in his hate for the purge and what it did to his family. The star of the franchise, who I hope is brought back if they decide to go for number four.
Senator Roan’s beliefs are also well routed in the past and what the purge did to her family. She wants to end it because it is nothing but a money play by the government and it is costing the lives of innocent people. She is a strong believer in murder being evil, and even stops Dante from killing her rival the Minister. The action was understandable given how the character was portrayed, and Mitchell did a fine job in the role.
Joe was the father figure who also supplied many of the laughs. A former gang member who found solace in owning his own deli, Joe took in those he felt needed it (Marcos and Laney). It is evident the deli means everything to him, as he is willing multiple times to give his life to protect it. It is also apparent he is not a strong believer in the Senator, feeling race will trump everything, and even if she manages to win, nothing will really change. As the events unfold, his mind is ultimately changed, and he takes a bullet to protect Roan. Given how he was looked up to by multiple characters as well as his willingness to give his life for his business, his death seemed apparent for much of the film.
Marcos had a rough life in Mexico, and the purge in some ways reminds him of that past. He wants to forget that past and the purge, and that is what drives his support of the Roan. He clearly looks up to Joe, who gave him a job when he arrived from Mexico, as a father figure. He was an interesting character who I felt would have made for a more surprising death compared to Joe.
Laney is a former purger turned good. She now goes around helping the injured on purge night, and brings them to the safe place. She is a total bad ass when she needs to be, as seen when she takes out the crew of crazy chicks trying to break into Joe’s Deli. That was clearly her main scene, as she was pushed more to the background after that. She was still with the gang, but not given nearly as much to do.
Dante had a more limited role, but a vital one when it came to rescuing the Senator. His crew had a plan to sneak into the church to assassinate the Minister. Leo finds out about the plan, and it is what tells him where Roan was taken when she was captured. Dante ends up dead after he is shot, following him driving a car into a few of the assassins.
Election Year had some nice new elements that helped it feel fresh compared to prior installments. The inclusion of the purge tourists was a nice addition. Tourists who were coming to the U.S. just so they could purge and kill people. It was something new that led to one of the first obstacles that our team needed to overcome. It was actually what brought most of the team together, as Marcos and Joe had to rescue Leo and Roan from being murdered.
Having Roan be a form of target also made things feel a little different. It was more than just people going around and killing others, as it was more of a hunt. Roan was the one some of the bad guys wanted dead, as opposed to a faceless group just killing whoever was in their path.
This one also had a much more political feel to it, which is appropriate given the title. Current issues such as race relations, corrupt government and treatment of the poor were all apparent. I also do not think it is a coincidence that Senator Roan had a rather strong resemblance to Hilary Clinton. The Minister also had some Trump qualities. One of which includes a non-politician being a candidate for the presidency.
The main knock I have with the film would be its predictability. It followed the script to a tee. There were a few false finishes, but then again, so do many films. The end result was easy to see coming, as were most of the deaths. It was pretty clear Roan would win and end the purge. It was fairly evident Joe would be the main player to die. And it was pretty clear Roan would get her way and not have Dante kill the Minister.
At the end of the day, the film was entertaining. It had solid characters who all acted like you would expect given what we learned about them. The violence was there as expected, as was the death. It had enough fresh elements from keeping it from being stale as well. Grillo steals the show as the main character, as he provided some humor and toughness in a role fit for him.
The overall predictability is what hurts the film, but not enough to say it’s not worth seeing. If you enjoyed the first two you will enjoy Election Year. A quality movie that is worth seeing in theaters.