The Purge: Election Year is the third installment in the franchise that has given America one night a year to act out any type of crime imaginable and with no consequences. Frank Grillo returns as Leo Barnes who is now tasked with protecting a Senator, played by Elizabeth Mitchell, targeted because of her opposition to the annual purge night. The film, written and directed by James DeMonaco, also features performances by Mykelti Williamson, Joseph Julian Soria, Betty Gabriel, and Terry Serpico.
This is one of those franchises that I enjoy more than I probably should, but so far the series has been very entertaining to watch and the creators do a good job of keeping things fresh. The story itself is fairly predictable although I was perfectly okay with that as long as I had a good time getting through to the end. One of the things I really like is how, as the main characters move along through their own story, they cross paths with all kinds of purging that takes place off to the side, down the street, or just out of sight. This really helps to create a highly immersive experience with some of the coolest looking stuff actually happening to peripheral and random characters as opposed to forcing the protagonists through every single bit of mayhem and destruction that can be thought up for the film. That being said, there is no shortage of purge night antics that Leo, Senator Roan, and their allies must endure before the movie is over and, as another bonus, there is a very real sense of danger and you're never quite sure who might get knocked off at any given moment.
In his second turn as Leo Barnes, Frank Grillo seems to have found a comfort level with this character and does a great job leading the way for new comers like Mitchell and Betty Gabriel who plays a purge survivor turned bad ass who now patrols the city helping to provide aid to those who needs it while the purge is going on. Gabriel is highly effective as a sort of modern day Pam Grier and she provides her character with a cool confidence that really drives home the point that she has been through a heck of a lot over the years. Providing the necessary comic relief and the most heartfelt moments of the movie is Mykelti Williamson who plays Joe Dixon, a deli owner who gets pulled into the fray after his business is threatened and his insurance company screws him over at the last minute. He easily gets the best lines of anyone in the film, most of which I am not able to repeat although one of the best is his signature "Good night, blue cheese!" which he uses to great effect.
The Purge: Election Year is a great mid budget action thriller that manages to hold on to its horror DNA while doing a great job of expanding on the original idea. The action is intense and imaginative which adds a layer of urgency to a story that is eerily relevant to current events and there is a creepiness factor that pushes things even farther without going over the edge. Seriously, you'll be on the edge of your seat and squirming through a lot of the movie, not necessarily because what you're seeing scares you, but because the more you watch, the more you get the feeling that we may not be that far away from something like this actually happening.
Go see it. It's better than you think it's going to be.