"The Purge: Election Year" Review

It’s been two years since we last saw America purge in The Purge: Anarchy. This time it’s 2025 and America is on the verge of either electing a new president who wants to get rid of the purge, or a president who wants nothing but to see the annual 12 hours of all crime being legal continued. This weekend at the movies, I vote you save your money and wait for this one to hit your favorite streaming program!

Eighteen years before the present day in the film, Senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell) watched her family be murdered before her eyes on purge night. Since then, she has been on a mission to end the purge. Let’s not kid ourselves, her opponent is a Donald Trump-like character who believes in violence as the American Way. Frank Grillo reprises his role as Seargent Barnes but this time he’s the head of the Senator’s security.

We’re introduced to new characters in the beginning of the film, and it’s noticeably less than Anarchy’s cast. Bishop (Edwin Hodge) is a revolutionary fighting the NFFA (a trivia note, he's the only person who has been in all three films but he's at the forefront in this one), Joe (Mykelti Williams aka Bubba from Forrest Gump) is a small deli shop owner with the worst afro-centric stereotypical one-liners, and Laney (Betty Gabriel) is an ex-gangster who may have traded in violence for being a triage nurse but still has a shotgun near by. The character development is a little rushed, and the only new person I cared for was Laney as she had a great stamp of approval from a teenage hell-raiser (who comes back later in the film) in the beginning of the film.

The franchise hasn’t changed from its baseline since The Purge. The characters still have to survive the night. This time the goal is to protect the senator from the NFFA members and hired henchmen trying to take her out. The intriguing development this time is the culture and technology of the purge. Foreigners from around the world come to America to participate in the purge as a form of leisure, coined “murder tourists”. Purgers use drones to track people, set up sophisticated traps, and have fight clubs. You get a true sense that this America is fully realized throughout the film.

Writer/director of the trilogy, James DeMonaco, visually taps into the terror of the purge by taking what’s typically harmless and making it horrifying. A car wrapped in christmas lights, bumping Taylor Swift, and filled with teenage girls dressed in lingerie becomes a psychotic gang you don’t want to mess with. Unfortunately, this film seems to have lost its steam at the script level. DeMonaco has slowly brought a political/class undertone further to the forefront with each film, and Election Year clearly wants to speak on gun violence, the Black Lives Matter movement, religious fanaticism and our current election season. The subtlety in eluding to modern issues is tossed out for either on-the-nose dialogue, or long scenes that run its point into the ground. 

I’ve been a fan of this franchise up until this point from a guilty pleasure perspective. The internal time clock on the films keep things moving, and its entertaining to see how the characters will survive. While The Purge: Election Year has its moments, overall it feels rushed and the characters are caricatures of their stereotype. I’m sure there will be another purge film, but this franchise’s clock may get punched if it doesn’t work on better character development and presenting issues in a more subtle way.

Rating: C-




Kevin Sampson

The fact that Kevin Sampson is not just a film critic, but a writer, producer, and director as well makes his understanding of cinema even better. Coming from a theoretical and hands on approach, he understands both sides of the struggle of viewing and creating great works. After receiving an MFA in Film & Electronic Media from American University in Washington, D.C in 2011, Kevin took his love for film to the next level by creating and producing Picture Lock, an entertainment website, podcast, and hour long film review TV show that runs on Arlington Independent Media’s public access station in Arlington, VA. The show covers new releases, classic films, and interviews with local filmmakers in the DMV area. He is also a member of the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association and African American Film Critics Association. He is currently looking forward to filming his first feature film in the near future. He believes that film is one of the most powerful art forms in the world, and he hopes that he can use the craft to inspire others and make a difference in it.