The Purge is a great idea with a host of possibilities and stories to explore, which is why it is a shame that the third movie in the franchise follows the second movie so closely. After keeping the first film in the confines of one house, it made natural sense to expand the idea of a 12 hour, lawless night when every crime, even murder, is lawful, to a city-wide arena.
The third movie is no different and seems to stick with the same city. It even brings a couple of characters through from the sequel, notably Frank Grillo’s Sarge. The central story is more about protecting a valuable politician than just pure survival but when you narrow down the plot to the bare-essentials, the movies are very close.
That doesn’t mean the movie doesn’t work though and director James DeMonaco explores the idea of a lawless night well. There are some new additions to the idea, like a “protected” triage truck, “murder tourists” and even exploration, although minimally, of how aspects like insurance could be exploited. The idea is brimming with great ideas and only the surface of that potential is explored here.
Clever ideas aside, the movie is a very tense thriller. The film has some good central characters. Grillo’s Sarge lacks any real depth but this is made up for in the supporting trio, played by Mykelti Williamson, Joseph Julian Soria and Betty Gabriel. They are just “average folk” trying to survive the night and the movie adheres you to them, caring about their outcome and even the outcome of their local deli.
What the film is not is a horror. There are some freaky moments and times when the film builds the gore and blood-loss but never a moment when you will be genuinely scared. DeMonaco does develop some disturbing imagery and the central idea to the whole movie is terrifying but aside from wondering what you would do if The Purge was a real life event, you’ll never feel scared.
What you will be is on the edge of your seat at key moments and that is the movie’s success. It is a good story at it’s core and just about tows the line between mindless action movie and thought-provoking thriller – particularly in this current political climate.
Overall, The Purge: Election Year doesn’t deviate too much from the previous formula but doesn’t necessarily have to. There is a good central story at it’s core and characters you genuinely care about. Some of the better, more creative ideas around The Purge are explored but lack the depth to elevate this movie too much.
Rating – 3.5
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