The Purge: Election Year – Review (*** 1/2)

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Despite beginning on fairly unremarkable footing, The Purge franchise has blossomed into a solidly compelling thriller franchise with a wealth of possibilities to mine for the future. If not quite reaching the same level of gritty intensity as the previous film, Election Year is still a worthy threequel that further expands the series’ urban nightmare mythos.

Election Year flashes forward to 2040, almost 20 years after police sergeant Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo) opted not to exact murderous revenge on the drink driver who killed his son. Now, he’s the head of security for Senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell), and is in charge of ensuring she remains protected on Purge night, as she faces violent contention for vowing to bring the annual ritual to an end should she be elected.

Election Year ably replicates Anarchy’s sprawling night of terror while building on Frank Grillo’s terrific, Punisher-esque lead (even if he wears a suit this time) and serving up a host of new, demented personalities for the gang to contend with. Crucially imbued with plenty of ribald character banter to ensure that the new line-up easily bests the more hit-and-miss survivors from last time, there’s not a single “good guy” here you’ll actively be rooting for to buy it.

Returning writer-director James DeMonaco evidently has a strong handle on the universe he’s created and commits further to the world-building that was so outrageously absent in the very first movie. The thrill of these joints is in seeing a city torn to pieces by blood-thirsty rage, and Election Year aptly launches the heroes from place to place in a timely fashion as a hit squad relentlessly pursues them.

The stylistic griminess creates a distinctly 70s tone, reminiscent of classic thrillers like Assault on Precinct 13 (and aptly enough, DeMonaco wrote the 2005 remake), cementing the abject horror of this 12-hour period even during some fairly long stretches between gory action.

Its politics are somewhat on-the-nose, yes, though anyone genuinely expecting serious political commentary from a film like this may be a little misguided in their sneering; this pic is clearly going for a grab-bag of food-for-thought at best, while putting blood and bullets front-and-center.

Still, it pales slightly compared to Anarchy simply because Grillo’s Punisher act is toned down a little in favour of something more conventionally heroic, and the whole affair feels less morally ambiguous. Even so, it carries on the franchise in entertainingly sordid fashion, and even sews some tantalising seeds for future installments.

*** 1/2

The Purge: Election Year is in US cinemas now and UK cinemas August 26th


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