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Capone says THE PURGE: ELECTION YEAR is the film today's America deserves…and that's not a bad thing!!!

Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.

The good guys in the PURGE movies always seem to be taken by surprise, as if they didn’t know the exact date and start time of this annual crime-ridden event until six hours before it begins, which is, of course, nonsense. Meanwhile, the marauding bands of killers roaming the streets have such elaborate costumes, tricked-out vehicles and flashy weaponry, it’s like they’ve been preparing since the year before, like a murderous Mardi Gras. The whole exercise is exceedingly tasteless, but that’s essentially the point of these films—even more so with this one. THE PURGE: ELECTION YEAR attempts to capture a bit of the ragged, bitter rivalry of our current election cycle and transform it into a national debate about whether The Purge should be continue. In other words, this is THE PURGE movie we have earned by being a ridiculous nation right now.

Just as a reminder, The Purge is a 12-hour event that happens once a year, during which all crime is legal. According to the history lesson we’re given with each film, the result of allowing the nation to vent in such a way is that crime is down considerably for the rest of the year. In the years prior to Election Night, certain high-ranking government officials and other rich and powerful people have been exempt from being killed. However, because of the events in THE PURGE: ANARCHY, where it was uncovered that the rich were using The Purge to thin the poor masses and make their numbers more manageable, there are no exemptions.

All of this has resulted in two candidates moving to the front of the pack: the pro-Purge Edwidge Owens (Kyle Secor), a minister turned politician who has allowed the practice of the Purge to warp his religious beliefs; and Sen. Charlene Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell), a defiant voice of reason whose only real platform seems to be ending The Purge once and for all. Her head of security is returning character Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo), who repeatedly manages to keep the senator from being killed by soldiers working for the religious disciples of Owens.

Set two years after the last film, when The Purge begins this time around, traitors in the Roan security team make it necessary for her and Barnes to leave the house almost immediately and seek shelter in the midst of some nasty goings on. For a time, they hide out in a corner convenience store run by Joe Dixon (Mykelti Williamson) and his right-hand man Marcos (Joseph Julian Soria); they also get help from a first-aide vehicle driven by Laney (Betty Gabriel); and take shelter with an underground, anti-Purge group, led by Dante Bishop (Edwin Hodge, the only actor to appear in all three Purge movies).

Writer-director James DeMonaco (who has made all the PURGE films) has done an admirable job of find a new aspect to The Purge to showcase in each new film. In the first chapter, the emphasis was on a single family in a far more personal and claustrophobic story. In ANARCHY, focus was shifted to capture more of the national phenomenon. It’s more of a traditional action film with our heroes racing from (relatively) safe spot to safe spot, giving us a sense of the “nowhere to hide” aspect of the tale, as well as the hidden political agenda of the event. And now, DeMonaco has included religious and political angles to the ever-expanding scope of his work. He clearly doesn’t trust religious leaders or public servants, and who can blame him?

The second and third PURGE movies are about the ugly, ragged, hyper-violent aspects of this cleansing event. They’re about pure survival at any cost, and you can never be sure who will live or die. Inner squabbling about maintaining a code of ethics while trying to protect the senator seems overplayed. At the same time, it feels hopeful beyond hope that such a person would even exist in this environment. On the other end of the spectrum, there is a roving band of teenage girls who torment the storeowner just before The Purge starts, and not surprisingly come back for him in Purge mode. How they are dealt with feels almost anticlimactic.

THE PURGE: ELECTION YEAR is a well-paced work that barely gives you time to settle into the film before another danger pops up like so many moles in need of whacking. Grillo is a star in the making. After a fiery performance in Anarchy and meaty supporting roles in the most recent two CAPTAIN AMERICA films, he has established himself as a great choice to play tough-guy parts (good or bad), while allowing us to believe, there’s something going on inside that brain that can be reasoned with. In a way, he’s a stand-in for the film itself. There’s something going on in this series that is tapping into a basic entertainment need for audiences (and I believe this third installment fits that will quite nicely); I’m not saying this is a good or bad thing—it just is.

It’s easy to hate the PURGE movies. They’re fairly low-rent concepts that appear to appeal to a certain demographic that thinks toting guns on the street is a good idea. But they’re also escapist entertainment that hopes to put all of our worst fears on the screen so that we aren’t tempted to bring them down into the real world (time will tell). So far, to varying degree, I’m still on board with the series and curious to see where DeMonaco takes it. To show us the final Purge? Or do they go back to THE PURGE: YEAR ONE? I’m curious about the so-called New Founding Fathers who kickstarted this practice, but mostly I’m just hoping the filmmakers hold steady on their risky vision.

-- Steve Prokopy
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