Director: James DeMonaco
Cast: Frank Grillo, Elizabeth Mitchell, Mykelti Williamson, Joseph Julian Soria, Betty Gabriel, Edwin Hodge
Plot: Charlie Roan, a senator who lost her family on Purge Night, vows to end the Purge if she wins the election, making her a target by the New Founding Fathers, who intend to use the Purge to eliminate her. Her chances for survival are in the hands of her bodyguard Leo Barnes and a handful of poor people trying to survive the night.
Review: Writer and director James DeMonaco deserves credit for achieving two rare feats. One: writing and directing all three Purge films, and two: making each one better than the last.
The first film was a basic home invasion story, the second taking it a step further by putting the audience on the street and watching the poor and innocent victims getting mowed down by the crazies and the rich. The idea of the Purge being a plan by the New Founding Fathers to eliminate the poor in order to save money on welfare was hinted at in the second film, Anarchy. Now in Election Year, that idea is expanded. This angle is explored through the eyes of Joe Dixon, a deli owner whose insurance will not cover losses from Purge Night, and therefore has to take up arms and watch the place himself, alongside his loyal worker Marcos. There is also Laney, a friend of Dixon's, who has a history of crime but now chooses to roam the streets on Purge Night in an armored triage van giving help to the wounded.
As mentioned, the senator, Charlie Roan, a victim of the Purge herself, gains momentum in the upcoming elections by promising to end the Purge if she wins. The NFFA view her as a threat and attempt to eliminate her on Purge Night. Traitors within her security team forces her to flee with her bodyguard, Leo Barnes, whom you'd remember from Anarchy. The duo run into Dixon and company, and the fight begins.
DeMonaco improves on the earlier films in a handful of ways, upping the ante on the action, violence and the plot. Sure, this is yet another fight for survival, but the stakes are much higher now. As one of the character states: the soul of the country is at stake. Election Year takes a closer look at the plight of the true victims of the Purge, how they suffer every time this happens and what they stand to lose. There is a group, led by Bishop (the homeless man from the first film) who gives shelter and medical aid to the poor. Bishop plays a key role in the film's final third, where the senator's campaign and life hangs in the balance.
The action and violence is pretty awesome for the most part. Lots of headshots, explosions and blood. We even get a pretty nasty hit-and-run followed by shotgun blasts. The crazies get more creative with their outfits too, and DeMonaco even throws in murder tourists from Russia, who arrive just to have fun taking part in wanton murder. Like I said, the ante is upped tremendously. Even the pace of the film is perfect, as I was on the edge of my seat the whole time.
The cast all perform splendidly, and while Frank Grillo's Leo Barnes makes a good action hero, it is Mykelti Williamson's Dixon that steals the show as the everyman trying to protect what's his. Joseph Julian Soria and Betty Gabriel are also solid as Marcos and Laney respectively, while Lost's Elizabeth Mitchell makes a convincing turn as Senator Roan. Also worth mentioning is Raymond J. Barry hamming it up as NFFA leader Caleb.
If there's a downside, it's the question of why there are so many crazy Purgers in each film. The final scene, which takes place in a church, is a fine example of this. Just watching this insane guy stabbing a man to death while the NFFA minister stands behind him preaching and getting orgasmic in front of an audience was pretty funny.
My local censors did wipe out several things which barred my enjoyment slightly. But I gotta say, The Purge: Election Year is awesome, and that's something I didn't expect. (8/10)