After viewing ‘The Purge: Election Year,’ I felt like I needed to purge. ‘Election Year’ is the third installment in Director James DeMonaco’s manic series of pseudo-political, race-based slasher movies. Here’s the premise (let’s not call it a plot) of the Purge trilogy:
A white supremacist, ultra-religious, male privileged, crony capitalist party called the “New Founding Fathers of America” has run the country for the last 25 years. Crime is at an all-time low, unemployment is at an all-time low, and the streets are clean. It’s a horror!
In order to cut down on the number of homeless and poor people who require expensive housing and medical care, the NFFA instituted the Purge as a day of national catharsis. One night each year, for twelve hours people can commit just about any crimes they wish with no legal consequences whatsoever. Not much (aside from certain explosives) is off limits. Murder, rape, beheadings, mayhem, torture or savagery…all A-OK.
Yawn. It’s like any Saturday night in Chicago, the difference being that even bad dialog and overacting is permissible. Naturally, most good people stay off the streets if they can, because most bad people are out there Purging their asses off. There are no services available. No fire, no police, no garbage pickup, nothing. People are on their own. Which is also like Chicago.
Who could dream up such a nutty premise? Look no further than Boris Sobelman and Gene Roddenberry, the writers of an episode of Star Trek (the original series) called “The Return of the Archons.” You may have seen it when it premiered . . . in 1967.
So, all DeMonico had to do to create a cheap series of racist exploitation films was sharpen up his screenwriter’s crayon and add a whole bunch of killings, a big heaping bucket of lunatic fringe politics and a soupçon of “A Modest Proposal” to a TV script that’s close to 50 years old. Genius! And people pay to see it. Double genius!
So, when the Purge happens, who gets it in the neck (literally in the neck, because there’s a guillotine involved)? Well, black people and new immigrants are killed indiscriminately, of course, some of them by other black people and other new immigrants. Poor people who can’t afford to Purge-proof their meager housing are sitting ducks. And let’s not forget the members of the audience, who are the real victims here.
And who benefits from the Purge? White people, who are to blame for everything. Insurance companies that charge a lot of money for Purge insurance. And the NRA, which is specifically mentioned by name as a beneficiary of the slaughter. But let’s not forget to mention DeMonaco, who makes wheelbarrows full of cash every time this movie splatters across the big screen.
But despite the vise grip that the NFFA party has on this dystopian USA, the country still has free and fair elections. It’s incomprehensible, I know, but there it is. Anyway, it’s an election year, and running against the white male power elite is holier-than-thou white female Senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell).
She vows to end the Purge and give this film franchise a decent burial, a sentiment that nobody can argue against. Protecting her from the Purge is her head of security, Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo), who was the protagonist of the previous installment of this franchise.
Grillo is the unlikeliest of action heroes. He’s not big. He’s not young. He’s not athletic. He’s not handsome. He’s not charismatic. He can’t shoot for shit. He handles his Beretta pistol like it’s a fairy wand. He talks funny. He has a Soviet-era hairstyle cut by a drunken Russian barber. He’s not a great actor. And, despite all that, he’s pretty damn good at playing Leo Barnes and keeps this leaden movie afloat.
Along the way, Barnes and Senator Roan are chased by neo-Nazi mercenaries with full auto weapons in the employ of the NFFA, led by the evil Earl Danzinger (Terry Serpico). Barnes also handles run-of-the-mill lunatic Purgers who surveille them with home-made drones. The feckless pair falls in with deli owner Joe Dixon (Mykelti Williamson), his employee Marcos (Joseph Julian Soria) who seems to have no last name, and Laney Rucker (Betty Gabriel), a former mass-murdering Purger-turned-volunteer-ambulance-driver with a heart of gold. The team is aided by Crips, who in DeMonaco’s upside-down world are the good guys.
Another little slice of heaven: this abomination was produced by Michael Bay, who has personally earned over $400 million by making pro-American, sometimes arguably jingoistic entertainment like “13 Hours,” “The Last Ship” and “Pearl Harbor.” Maybe he needed to tune up his Hollywood cred. Or maybe he never read the script. Or maybe he’s in on the joke.
The Guns of The Purge: Election Year
Election Year has only one redeeming quality other than Grillo. It has guns. Lots of guns.
Barnes sprays a M92 FS one-handed and misses almost everything except the scenery. Fortunately, he’s very good with a push knife. Marco wields an M14 (or maybe an M1A) with the skill of a surgeon, at one point intentionally clipping the ear lobe of a schoolgirl Purger as a warning. The warning was not taken, so Rucker later vaporizes the rest of the schoolgirl’s head with a nifty Serbu Super Shorty. Speaking of shotguns, they are visible in abundance, including a Mossberg 590 Marine, a sawed-off Mossberg 500 and some Remington 870s.
Earl Danziger raises hell with his heavenly suppressed FN F2000 Tactical, while his crew shoots H&K UMPs and a nice Sage International M39 Enhanced Marksman Rifle. There’s a Kriss Vector sighting and many an AK-47’s, AKM’s and AKMS’s carried by deranged schoolgirls, heroic Crips and others. A couple of Russian “murder tourists” use a shiny and expensive Colt Python and an FN P90. If people knew that Russia has Pythons and P90’s for sale, the Sochi Olympics would have been a much more popular destination. An FN SCAR-L can be seen on a brief ride-along.
No tax stamps? No problem! For your Purging pleasure, we have an M60 and, best of all, an attack helicopter with a GE M134 Minigun in all its 6000 rpm glory.
As this potboiler unfolded, I was left wondering whether DeMonaco actually intended ‘Election Year’ to be more of a goof on anti-white racism than an actual anti-white screed. As political propaganda, ‘Election Year’ is far too stupid to be effective. It’s not as sneakily subversive as, say, ‘High Noon,’ which was a political statement against the anti-communist blacklist disguised as a well-crafted cowboy movie. ‘Election Year’ is far more cartoonish.
For example, an ‘Election Year’ scene in a church with a bunch of old white people in ecclesiastical robes chanting “blessed be” made the audience giggle, which may or may not be what DeMonaco was hoping for. Nobody giggled at anything in ‘High Noon.’ In fact, it inspired the filming of the anti-‘High Noon,’ namely, the excellent and memorable ‘Rio Bravo.’
Whatever its purpose, ‘Election Year’ is deeply offensive. I suffered through it so you don’t have to. Not in a theater, not on PPV, not on Redbox. Not ever. I took one for the team, and now I think I have a sore shoulder and PTSD.
One little known factoid: ‘Election Year’ was shot in the Hollywood of the East — Woonsocket, Rhode Island.
Model: The Purge: Election Year
Length: 105 minutes
Finish: “The Purge Strikes Back” anyone?
Price: $10 million (which it earned back on day one). It usually costs Hollywood $200 million to make a movie this idiotic.
RATINGS (out of five bullets):
Style * * *
Fright masks, Insane Clown Posse makeup, murderous schoolgirls in short skirts and overhead shots of Washington burning – what more could you ask for?
Reliability * *
Even a good Grillo and some major firepower can’t save a turgid and preachy script.
Overall * * 1/2
‘Election Year’ is exactly the sequel to ‘The Purge: Anarchy’ that everyone expected. Sure, it’s better than the abysmal ‘Anarchy,’ but given such a low bar, that’s faint praise indeed.