‘The Purge: Election Year’ : The only thing we have to fear?

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The Purge: Election Year (2016)

Directed by James DeMonaco

The world was introduced to “The Purge” in 2013, but despite Ethan Hawke’s relative star power the home invasion thriller didn’t thrill moviegoers. In 2014, “The Purge: Anarchy” capitalized on the potential of the original, showed us what the Purge was like in the streets, and exposed us to more than our fair share of disturbing Purge traditions. And now we have “The Purge: Election Year,” which tries to connect the franchise to the current political climate in America. But “Election Year” doesn’t offer up enough new and exciting angles to keep us interested in the Purge. In fact, it almost made me want to purge the Purge altogether.

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Senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell) is in a dead heat with a pro-Purge pastor (Kyle Secor) in their race to become President of the United States. Roan vows to end the Purge, which she says is the wealthy elite’s way of cleansing the country’s poor (and largely minority) citizens so they don’t have to keep funding their welfare. But the Purge is two months before Election Day, and pro-purge advocates realize the best way to end Roan’s candidacy is to end her life. So with the help of Secret Service agent Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo) and a few kind strangers that fate will bring into their lives (Mikelti Williamson, Betty Gabriel, and Joseph Julian Soria), Senator Roan will spend Purge Night just trying to survive.

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Like “House of Cards” earlier this year, “Election Year” presents a political climate that any other year would be seen as outrageous and unbelievable…but in 2016, it’s just par for the course. “Election Year” paints Purge politicians as pro-gun extremist fiscal conservatives. That, and indirect references to the Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter movements, helps to keep “Election Year” relevant—but it’s also a cover-up for the fact that it lacks the excitement of “Anarchy.” “Election Year” is best when it’s trying to scare you with traditional horror elements like masks and guillotines, not dire political warnings that this might be where the country is headed. “Anarchy” was successful because it made us feel like we were out there on the streets, afraid for our lives—normal people trapped in a bad circumstance. Replacing that with a Senator takes away some of the more effective frights.

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Still, the idea of an annual 12-hour period of crime where everything is legal is a goldmine of possibilities. I’m determined to stick with the franchise until it gives us something that will live in the annals of horrifying thrillers for decades to come. It could happen.

6/10

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