This year, we have received yet another entry in The Purge franchise, much to the enjoyment of those who enjoy the franchise and much to the disgust of everyone else. The Purge, for those of you who don’t know, has now become a series of films set in the not too distant future in which the economy has been increased and employment down to an all time low and crime is also at an all time low, because for 12 hours, during one night of the year in America, all crime is legal, including murder. I have a big problem with The Purge franchise and it’s precisely the reason that Nostalgia critic laid out in his review of the original film, it takes itself too seriously. The Purge could be an amazing dark comedy and a social satire, but the films want to take themselves so seriously that they act like this could be an actual thing. I’m sorry, I don’t buy that in a year’s time, because the original film stated the first Purge took place in 2017, we are going to suddenly have one night a year when all crime is legal, not to mention its social commentary on class structure and the 2nd amendment seemed really heavy handed and completely unsubtle. Now I may not have liked the first film at all with the exception of the character of Henry who was probably one of the hammiest performances I have ever seen in a long time and just had me in stitches anytime he was on screen, but I will admit The Purge Anarchy, its sequel which came out in 2014 was a marked improvement. Granted not much of an improvement, but at least it gave more of a personality to the franchise and tried to explore the world of The Purge and different people’s attitude towards it. It didn’t work in this instance at all, but at least I commend the attempt.
The series has been produced by Michael Bay and Jason Blum, though I think Bay has minimal to little involvement in the franchise as it doesn’t really mimic a lot of the tropes of films that he produces and feels more in line with Jason Blum whose main producing credits include The Paranormal Activity movies, which was how the first film was marketed and it is fairly evident the way the films are shot, they are making the most of the minimal budget and the fact that these films seem to be released annually, you get the sense that Jason Blum has the most control here. The film is once again, written and directed by James DeMonaco who only had one feature film prior to The Purge that he had directed, and it shows, he is definitely a much better writer than he is a director and The Purge films show a lot of his weaknesses.
“I really don’t understand how people like these movies?”
The plot of The Purge: Election Year takes place a couple of years after the events of the first film. After her family is murdered 18 years ago in a previous Purge, Senator Charlie Roan (played by Elizabeth Mitchell) runs for president, her main opponent being the new founding fathers candidate Minister Edwidge Owens (played by Kyle Secor). The Senators main goal, ‘get The Purge to end’, the new founding fathers, however, take offence to this idea and with the help of the Minister, remove the exemption in The Purge, protecting political figures in order to use The Purge to assassinate her. However, there is one thing the new founding fathers did not count on, the Senators new head of security is Leo Barnes (played by Frank Grillo) and he is incredibly skilled at his job and uses his skills to keep the Senator safe from The Purge, after her house is raided by a Militia. Can Leo get the Senator to safety so that she can survive until the Election. If there is one thing to be said about The Purge: Election Year is that I think it is trying to solve a lot of criticisms that were launched against the first two films, but it actually ends up exacerbating them! I am serious, this film feels rushed! It’s very unremarkable and the major reason is the second film. It almost follows The Purge: Anarchy beat for beat. We are even doing the whole street level crime thing again, which was pretty well explored in the second film and it shows signs that the franchise is running out of things to explore.
You know what would have made a more interesting movie, have the family fathers bumping off people, that is an interesting idea, but have them actually target communities that are likely to vote for the Senator, that would be a much more interesting movie. Oh well, review the movie you got and not the one you wanted.
If you didn’t like The Purge films, this is not one to convert you. This has everything that was wrong with the previous films and more! Now, to be honest, despite the fact that I said it was a repeat of Purge: Anarchy, and that is not a good thing in any sense of the word. I may have said that Purge: Anarchy was a bit of a step up from the first Purge film, but I still did not like it, mainly because it had a problem that this one exacerbated, it preaches an anti-violence message, but it seems to revel in violence. The first film, for all its faults didn’t revel in the violent actions that took place, in fact it kind of held off on it for large portions of the film, this one is practically swimming in it and frankly it’s astounding how violent the film gets considering what the overall message of the film is. It’s not as hypocritical as a film like the Gerrard Butler film Gamer or the Stone Cold Steve Austin vehicle, The Condemned, but it still feels hypocritical which is kind of ironic considering that one of the lines that the Christian Purger’s have is ‘we are not hypocrites’.
The other problem with the film, it’s even less subtle about its political message than it used to be. This film isn’t subtle, it’s like a “sledgehammer to the face”. You know when you are stuck on a bus with a guy whose political views you agree with, but he won’t shut up about them and goes completely over the top about it. Yes, if that person was a movie, it would be this film.
The characters are clearly social commentaries against the parties with a very much pro-democratic message, the Senator obviously being a stand in for Hilary Clinton and despite what you are thinking, Minister Edwidge Owens is not a stand in for Donald Trump, he is actually a more of a Ted Cruz type figure, you know, the sort of politician who will come up with repugnant policies and justify it with their religious beliefs. The is also the commentary about racism (which is kind of ironic, because I think some of the dialogue is slightly racist) , poverty, health care reforms, none of it is subtle, and it is so annoying. It never gives you time to think for yourself. I agree with a lot of the ideas that the film makers want to spread the message on, but I don’t like them for trying to do that because it makes a lot of these ideas seem like they are being thought up by jackasses that are full of themselves.
That is the biggest problem with the film, it’s completely full of itself. These films are still taking themselves so seriously and I just can’t take it seriously. I don’t buy into any of it. I mentioned in the plot synopsis that the law protecting politicians has been lifted, well that is what was referred to in the emergency broadcast signals that signified the start of The Purge in the first two films has the Class 10 exemption, that Class 10 political figures were not to be harmed, well there is your problem. They never specified what that meant, so as a result it created a massive plot hole that they never bothered to explain. Getting rid of it is a good idea because it makes a lot of contradictions in the film, but it never should have been put in these films in the first place. What’s more the film never really addresses the nature of crime, once again, it just looks at it as violence and anarchy, it never addresses drug dealers, career, criminals, mental health issues, it’s all just pimped up rage and it’s just not that simple. As Film Brain points out when he reviewed the original film, ‘do serial killers just not kill anyone during the rest of the year and save it all for The Purge?’. Also how is the economy doing so well in this environment, if people are being killed and there are mass deaths on a yearly basis, how is that helping the economy in any way, shape or form? There are no new jobs being created because the only people getting killed are usually low income workers and the unemployed. The whole thing just gets sillier and sillier and by this point it feels like the franchise has completely fallen through. I haven’t even mentioned the characters or the main plot line or the survivalist plot line that is running through the film, as I said before, it’s basically a re-trace of Purge: Anarchy almost beat for beat.
The one thing I can give the film credit for is that the characters are more memorable and likeable in this film, for the most part, there are a couple I am not a fan of and most of them are really down to stereotypes, for example, the Deli owner Joe Dixon is basically a Black dad stereotype and Marcos is a Mexican immigrant stereo type and these characters, along with a few other decisions definitely show that Michael Bay has clearly had a lot more of an influence in this film than the previous two down to the ‘quote on quote’ sexy teenage Purges that despite the fact that they are being set up to be like Henry’s gang in the first film, don’t contribute much to the film and are bumped off pretty quickly.
The film also has to invent several factors to keep the plot going, the militia tracks down the group because one of the bullets that hits Leo at the beginning of the film has a tracer in it. When did they establish that in the previous films? It just feels like a massive plot convenience. In fact, there are several moments in the film where it feels like the reason that this happens is ‘because the plot says so’. There is also a moment later on in the film which is completely baffling but I can’t mention it for spoiler reasons. Not that there is much to spoil as the trailers that were released do give away most of the film, which also meant there was a severe lack of attention throughout the entire running time.
It’s just not that well put together. The script is frankly atrocious, there is some awful dialogue, especially for the Black characters who are given some of the worst lines to say in the entire film. Joe Dixon actually starts out as a really likeable character but he then turns into a massive stereotype of Black Americans and I completely lost any endearment I had towards him. The same went for Marcos, he started out quite interesting then lost my endearment half way through the film. In fact, that’s another problem. The characters all feel incredibly under-developed. They all allude to having chequered pasts, but they don’t get explored that much. The only ones we have a complete idea on are the Senator’s because her back story is given in a flash back at the beginning and Leo’s because it was given in the last film, and despite the fact that he is the only returning character in these entire films he feels unnecessary. You could easily have put another character in his place and it wouldn’t have made much of a difference. In fact, where have the Sanders family gone in these films? Spoiler alert for anyone who hasn’t seen any of the previous Purge films, Ethan Hawke was the only one who was killed off, basically because they couldn’t afford to pay for him in other films, but you could at least say what has happened to the wife and kids, they weren’t exactly named actors. If I didn’t know better, I would swear this film was written and directed by Michael Bay. It has all of his negativity to it and all the pretention of the other two films.
The scripts and the plot are frankly a complete mess, relying on the most strenuous of coincidences and convenience and it feels like there are even more plot conveniences in this than in Season 4 of Yu-gi-oh.
As for the actors, well none of them are giving good performances here. The only one I kind of liked was Frank Grillo though he doesn’t feel like he has much of a point to be there. I will say I enjoyed Mykelti Williamson who played Joe Dixon for most of the film, it’s just at the end he was given appalling lines of dialogue. The same deal for Joseph Julian Soria. Betty Gabriel gets an excellent chance to play a bad ass, except she only gets to play it for one scene and after that she is pretty bland and pointless. Fans of Lost will recognize Elizabeth Mitchell who is playing the Senator in the film and she would be all right if her character didn’t come across as incredibly preachy and incredibly annoying. There are no really hammy performances with the exception of Kyle Secor and Naeem Duren who also plays a reverend who play it so over the top you can’t help but laugh, not as good as Henry but damn is it funny I couldn’t stop laughing, you can’t expect me to take this seriously guys!!
As for the fight scenes, they are pretty hit and miss and the cinematography overall is kind of weird. These films are made with a bit of a budget, and I will say that Purge: Anarchy and this film both covered up their budget constraints rather well, however, you do notice at some points like with this film’s sheer reliance on close ups. There’s also that weird neon Halloween aesthetic that the film has which frankly looks like it is more designed to sell posters than be visually interesting for the plot. Because the whole thing is shot at night, the lighting goes from being pretty decent to atrocious. It suited the first film because it was basically meant to be a home invasion story, but we are out on the streets now, I think you can afford to buy a few extra lights! I will also say that the make-up effects on the militia and for most of the cast are decent as well, the make-up department does an excellent job on these films.
There aren’t many positives I can say for Purge: Election Year, it’s just bizarre that the franchise has gone on this long with a plot which was essentially a rip off of a Power Puff girl’s episode. I didn’t even mention the horrifically poor judged element of the murder tourism sub plot which involved people from other Countries in Europe coming to America to take part in the Purge, which feels like an astoundingly misguided anti-immigration message. Either that or the film makers were just saying don’t trust foreigners!
The Purge: Election Year is frankly a sign that the franchise is running low on steam, has got more pretentious and full of itself than it was before. The whole thing feels preachy and unnecessary. The film’s ending suggests that this will be the final film in the franchise with only real possibilities of going forward being prequels and frankly if this is the final one I will be really glad because this franchise has really run thin and its getting annoying now. The first film wasn’t any good, the second didn’t do much to improve and the third makes me wonder why sequels keep coming out for this. The acting is terrible, the dialogue is atrocious and the film goes from being shot well to incredibly poorly. If you liked the Purge films you will probably enjoy this one because it’s more of the same as what we got before, but if you are not a fan and are curious about the franchise, I wouldn’t recommend starting it. There are a lot better film series that deserve your time.
So, now to talk about what I saw between this and Swallows and Amazons. I saw; David Brent, Life on the Road, Nine Lives and Lights out.
David Brent, Life on the Road: In a word this is depressing. I wasn’t much of a fan of The Office, but at least I acknowledge that it had some good writing and it did have a decent ensemble cast. That’s the thing though, it had an ensemble cast, it wasn’t just David Brent by himself and that’s the biggest problem with this film. It’s just David Brent! The whole thing feels like an unpleasant experience, it’s not even that funny. I can feel an earnest effort was put in here, but it’s not for me. I don’t even think fans of The Office will get much of a kick out of it especially considering that Ricky Gervais seems to have weirdly written the character to have gone back a few levels in his development since the final episode of The Office. I would say, if you liked The Office, give it a go, but be warned, I just didn’t find it that funny with the exception of a few moments and a decent performance from British rap comedian Doc Brown.
Nine Lives: Oh my, this film sucks so much!! You think I didn’t like Purge: Election Year, yes, this is the worst film I have seen in this time period and I am fairly convinced it will be in my Worst of the year list. It was astoundingly awful!!! I honestly thought the trailer was a joke, I could not believe this was the real movie. It’s 2016 guys, no one wants to see a film where Kevin Spacey plays a cat. I am actually going to spoil the plot of this one, that’s how much I disliked it and don’t want people to go and see it. The film is awful with Kevin Spacey playing a ‘Richard Branson’ type of business man, who doesn’t spend much time with his family and as a result gets turned into a cat by Christopher Walken. He is an awful villain who is completely one dimensional. The effects are amazingly rubbish, that it looks like it was made in the 90’s, the cat noises were so annoying that I didn’t want to see my own cats when I got home because I was so sick of the mewing. The writing is awful including one of the characters having a suicide sub plot, yes I am not joking, there is a suicide sub plot at the end of the movie, this is a kid’s film? Isn’t it? The comedy is not funny and any time that an audience member laughed I felt like strangling them because it is not funny, it’s not big, it’s not clever and you are just encouraging it!!! It was so unpleasant an experience. It was only on for 1hr 20mins but felt more like 2hrs. This deserves a 7% on rotten tomatoes, the critics can’t even be bothered to give it a 1 out of 10. AVOID IT AT ALL COSTS, IT IS NOT FUNNY.
Lights Out: This has been one of the big surprises of the year. I fully expected not to be impressed by this movie because of the trailers, but if it wasn’t for The Witch, I would say this has been the best horror film of the year (so far). It is very well written. It is based on a short film which you can get on YouTube and I would recommend you do that, but the film makers actually took the original concept and did a decent job with it. I am not going to say it’s a perfect film, there are quite a few plot holes, and inconsistencies and there are a few moments that made me scratch my head, but, my god it is so refreshing to see a horror film where the character’s act intelligently. Seriously this is one of the few horror films where the characters make some decisions that in other horror films they don’t even consider making, there were even characters I had expected to live in the end of the movie that died and characters I expected to die lived at the end. If you are a horror fan, it is a seriously good watch, it’s a good mix of psychological horror and some decent jump scares, that being said, it is reliant on said jump scares, so it isn’t perfect. I still maintain The Witch is the best horror film of the year and even the decade, but Lights Out definitely deserves your attention.
“So what were your thoughts on any of the films I have mentioned. Do you agree with mine or not?”
By the time this review goes out I will be in Europe on personal business.
This is the 2nd Anniversary of the Axia Film Society, so thanks for celebrating this with me.
Thank you so much for reading my reviews for the last 2 years.
Come back on 16 September, when Axia will be at the European Autism Conference in Edinburgh, where we will be reviewing stop motion animation film Kubo and the two Strings.
Thanks for reading my review, I hope you have enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it. Maybe I should now get an Axia Film Society Hoodie.
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