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.

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REVIEW: THE PURGE (2013)

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THE PURGE (2013)

The Purge is one of those movies that comes up with a fairly interesting premise then does something incredibly routine with it. The story takes place in the near future where crime in the United States is almost non-existant thanks to “The Purge”, one night a year where for 12 hours between 7 P.M. and 7 A.M. all crime including murder is legal and anyone who wishes to vent their internal anger and hatred can do so…while those who can afford it, hunker down in their fortified homes and watch it on TV. It’s seen as a release of negative emotion and a way to thin the poor and middle class who can’t afford home lock down systems as sold by James Sandin (Ethan Hawke). James and his family live in a very rich neighborhood in a very large house which is the envy of even their wealthy neighbors. James fully supports The Purge as he feels it makes the country a better place to live and also makes him able to afford his large house through the sales of his home security system designed to keep The Purge out and those that can afford it, safely in…or so he thinks.

This is where writer/director James DeMonaco fails to make good use of his premise. Sandin and wife Mary (Lena Headey), gadget loving son Charlie (Max Burkholder) and hot teen daughter Zoey (Adelaide Kane), complete with school girl outfit, get ready for the event to begin and not long after it does, a man (Edwin Hodge) shows up at their door bloodied and begging for help. Sensitive Charlie let’s him in and soon the house is surrounded by those pursuing him, a masked group of well armed youths who give the Sandins the choice of sending their prey out or they will come in and kill everyone. A good portion of the film is the moral dilemma that splits the family, should they hand over the man who Charlie is helping hide in their home, or do the right thing and try to protect him. It’s no secret that the thugs outside eventually will have reason to come in and start the blood flowing. And that’s kinda it.

The film takes an interesting premise and settles for basically being yet another home invasion/siege film where a family sheltered from violence is forced to use it to save their own lives. And the slight twist in the last act, and the stupid subplot involving Zoey’s boyfriend, really doesn’t do anything to make the film any more interesting. It’s just another routine variation on the latest horror trend which is masked kooks trapping people in their own house that seems to have started with the much better The Strangers and the French thriller Them (Ils), thought you can even trace it back to John Carpenter’s Assault On Precinct 13 from 1976. DeMonaco directs the film competently and there is some tension and suspense, but we’ve seen it all before right down to the dumb decisions characters make in order to keep the plot moving.

The cast are fine with Hawke giving his usual sturdy performance though Headey is wasted as Mary, mostly looking upset or crying for the most part. Burkholder can be a bit annoying as Charlie and Adelaide Kane, whose character disappears for long stretches without explanation, reminds me of a young Eliza Dushku before she developed the intensity she showed in Buffy. Not as impressive, but she might have potential. As for our villains, only the leader (Rhys Wakefield) takes his mask off and is a stereotypical arrogant, elitist yuppie with his group being your typical masked giggling and skipping loonies we’ve seen a lot in films recently. Maybe if they weren’t so busy acting like giggling, skipping children, they wouldn’t get gunned down so easily by a family that’s never had to kill before.

Overall The Purge is not a terrible movie, it’s just one with a good idea that limits itself to a very routine and thus very forgettable use of that idea…and so it’s a very routine and thus very forgettable movie. It was however a box office hit, so a sequel is on the way. Maybe they will make better use of their concept this time… maybe…

2 and 1/2 bullets!

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