The third installment in the survivor franchise definitely delivers its most enjoyable entry to date but a well tread plot and familiar characters doesn’t really help it stand out from the others.
After gaining popularity in the presidential race, candidate and anti-purge activist, Senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell) becomes the latest target during the 12 hour horror show that is the purge. With nobody but her security detail, Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo) to protect her, time will tell if she is to survive to fight for her presidency or become another victim of the night that ‘saved America’.
Some of the greatest directors of our generation have garnered praise by taking something great and making it better by controversially changing the tone of a franchise. Whether it’s James Cameron altering the Alien or Terminator franchises or Alfonso Cuaron taking the Harry Potter films in a different direction, there is no doubt that while questionable at the time, it was an incredibly smart decision once the credits rolled.
While the Purge franchise may not be directly comparable to those mentioned, one thing it certainly has in common was the ever noticeable change in genre. With a plot that bled elements of horror, the first did a decent job at setting the scene but by the time the second came to the big screen, it was clear it was a world where action could flourish also. Thankfully, Election Year capitalizes on the action element and rounds the trilogy off, not necessarily with a bang but satisfying enough for them to walk away with their heads held high.
If not for anything, director James DeMonaco definitely knows the world he helped create. While keeping the tone of the second, fast paced storytelling and well placed action sequences keep the audience interested while at the same time distracting them from the issues that films such as this frequently suffer from. Following a similar formula to the second, the audience follow a crew of relatable characters, giving the audience not only something to empathize with but also providing the balance the extreme situation calls for. When combined, these elements not only aid the story but integrate the audience well by forcing them to look in the mirror and really question what they would do in a similar situation.
While from the top down it looks like using the template was a clever idea, it’s not until we get about halfway through that the cracks begin to appear. While the initial scenes provide the building blocks for our characters, there is no denying the similar archetypes for the main protagonists. Although the addition of a reformed purger with the temperament of the Terminator is a fresh take on the ‘victim-centric’ group the audience follow, the result is a path more predictable than innovative. When this is then further supplemented by the conventional action flick script, the result, while more enjoyable than its previous entries, ends up being fairly standard rather than breathtaking.
Performance-wise, Election Year does a pretty decent job at bringing the characters to life. Frank Grillo falls back into the role as agent Leo, solidifying what might hopefully be a decent future within the action genre whilst Elizabeth Mitchell is passable as Senator Charlie Roan. A well rounded supporting cast manage to tie things up nicely.
Overall, The Purge: Election Year is a suitable end to the franchise that many thought wouldn’t last as long as it has. While there are some issues surrounding general character and plot templating, it thankfully doesnt take away (too much) from the surreal world DeMonaco manages to build. 3.5 out of 5 stars.