REVIEW: THE PURGE: ELECTION YEAR (2016)

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THE PURGE: ELECTION YEAR (2016)

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The Purge flicks aren’t great movies by any length, but give credit where it is due, the concept is interesting and series writer/director James DeMonaco is trying to do something different with it each installment. After a routine invasion flick first time around and an Escape From New York-ish second installment, we get a third chapter that is more hyper-violent political thriller. The third entry picks up 18 years after pretty Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell) watched her family brutally murdered during The Purge and now Senator Roan is vying for the presidency and the abolition of the yearly crime spree event. There is growing opposition to The Purge, especially from the poor, whose numbers it’s aimed at thinning and the senator is growing in popularity. The NFFA, who created the blood spattered event, plans to use this very night to end the senator’s campaign against them and now Roan is on the run for her life with only her security chief (a returning Frank Grillo) and a proud local deli owner (Mykelti Williamson) and friends, to protect her during the 12 hour period of murder and mayhem.

Here DeMonaco delivers a more moderately paced political thriller with conspiracy and treachery all around and The Purge itself serving more as a setting than the theme. While not a more straight-up action flick like The Purge: Anarchythere is still plenty of graphic violence and bloodshed and the director does create some unsettling images and sequences along the way. There are some themes he expands on, such as The Purge’s true purpose being to thin the numbers of the lower class to cut down on government welfare expenses and some new concepts, such as “murder tourists” who travel here from foreign countries on the night of The Purge, to get in on the bloody fun and an underground movement run by EMTs and doctors to treat victims. Yes, there are a lot of political, social and racial commentary mixed in here and none of it is any too subtle. It is very heavy handed and obvious and sticks out like a sore thumb, but at least the filmmakers earn a little credit for trying to give all the blood spattering a little substance. There are some problems here, too. As mentioned, the pace is a lot more moderate and it seems longer than it’s 90+ minutes, though never boring. There is also some clunky dialog and poor acting that drag down some scenes, no more evident than in the opening NFFA meeting and scenes involving a tough talking female hood (Brittany Mirabile) who is pretty annoying even with her limited screen time. Add to that, villains that are all a bit bland and we have a third installment that aims high and falls a bit short, though still entertains.

As for the cast, they are fairly serviceable with Grillo once again being a stand-out. He has a strong presence and kicks some ass in the action sequences and is a likable action hero. Elizabeth Mitchell is solid as Roan and while she comes across as sincere and not without strength, her character is reduced to a damsel in distress in the second half. Mykelti Williamson is good as deli owner Joe Dixon. He has a quiet strength and is convincing as a man of a humble lifestyle and a sense of integrity. There is also solid work from Julian Soria as Joe’s employee Marcos and Betty Gabriel as a tough as nails EMT who helps Roan and company evade capture. Our villains, unfortunately are a bit bland, which is partially due to a lack of good development. Kyle Secor is weak as a psychotic minister who is the NFFA’s presidential candidate in opposition to Roan and Terry Serpico is a stereotypical evil mercenary type as a tattooed white supremacist, militant send to collect the pretty blonde senator for her demise.

Overall, the third in this franchise doesn’t really improve greatly on the second entry, but does have some interesting ideas and attempts a little social commentary, though does it bombastically. There is some chilling imagery and some brutal action, but it is delivered at a much more moderate pace. The villains are somewhat weak, though we have a strong and likable batch of underdog heroes in contrast. Doesn’t accomplish all it’s goals, but credit given for trying to add some substance to the gruesome proceedings and allowing it’s theme event to take a backseat to the story and characters.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 bullets.

ex2 rating

 

 

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: DEATH WISH (1974)

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DEATH WISH (1974)

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Death Wish is a classic film and one of the most renown for legendary star Charles Bronson before Cannon Films turned it into a overblown franchise. The grim tale is of Paul Kersey (Bronson), a successful NYC architect with a beautiful daughter (Kathleen Tolan) and a loving wife (Hope Lang). The crime rate in the city is rising and it hits home for Kersey as a group of thugs (including a young Jeff Goldblum) targets his wife and daughter. His wife is beaten to death and his daughter brutally raped to the point of being non-resposive. The peaceful, former combat medic then changes his liberal thinking and takes to the streets to teach the criminal element a lesson…one bullet at a time.

The film is based on a book by Brian Garfield and written for the screen by Wendell Mayes. Michael Winner was chosen to direct, having worked with Bronson before on The Mechanic and The Stone Killer. Winner has a very by-the-numbers directing style and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing as anything flashier would have taken this into exploitation territory, which it skates quite close to already. The scene of the thugs assaulting Kersey’s wife and daughter is still as brutally effective as it was back in 1974 and it gives us reason to be behind Kersey when he starts slimming the NYC mugger population. The scenes of Bronson stalking the streets are effective, as is the turmoil inside the NYC police department when they realize someone is doing their job with far more brutal efficiency. There is obviously violence and Winner does give the NYC streets of that era a very desolate look at night, where danger does lurk on every corner. If the film stumbles, it’s for an over-obvious trip to Arizona that introduces Kersey to a community not afraid to bare arms and even has him returning to NYC with a gift of a six shooter. It’s a big plot contrivance to get Kersey armed and in kill mode and thankfully the film settles down to a more down to earth second half when Kersey becomes a vigilante folk hero cleaning up the streets. Racial issues are touched on briefly, but not made a major issue and the script does lay out some sequences and dialog that seem a bit corny at this point in time. There is an effective score by Herbie Hancock and Arthur J. Ornitz captures the urban jungle quite nicely with his camera work. A film that resonated with audiences at a time where NYC was more known for it’s crime wave than it’s Broadway shows.

The cast is top notch. Bronson does the stone faced performance that he is famous for, though does give Kersey some heart especially in the early scenes with his family and the aftermath of the attack. He takes the tough guy thing down a few notches so Kersey is believable as a normal family man driven to drastic measures for revenge. Hope Lang paints a portrait of a loving wife and mother in her brief screen time and it helps makes us sympathetic to her cruel end. Vincent Gardenia is the NY cop caught between catching a killer and the political backlash of the vigilante lowering the crime rate. Steven Keats is also effective as Kersey’s son-in-law and conveys his heartache well. Some future stars also appear as muggers, such as the before mentioned Jeff Goldblum, an uncredited Denzel Washington and Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, who would become a star in Cooley High and on Welcome Back Kotter a year later.

Death Wish may be a little dated, especially since the NYC clean-up of the early 90s, but it’s strength still remains. It’s a story of an average man driven to desperate acts to avenge the brutal crimes randomly committed on his loved ones. It portrays NYC as a crime ridden jungle with Bronson doing what he is a film legend for and stalking the stalkers. Sure some of the dialog is corny, and it can be a bit over obvious too…especially the contrived Arizona scenes…but is still an effective thriller even today and has the guts to not give it’s story a neat and clean ending either. Death Wish spawned a bunch of imitators, including the trash classic The Exterminator and it’s own franchise that brought Kersey and his guns out for four more movies. Now there is talk of a remake.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 bullets.

late phases rating

 

 

 

 

 

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