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Vote no on ‘The Purge: Election Year’

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('The Purge' Official Facebook Page)

(‘The Purge’ Official Facebook Page)

If all crime is legal for one night, mayhem ought to ensue. But with “The Purge: Election Year,” director James DeMonaco proves that even after three rounds in this universe, he still has yet to capitalize on the franchise’s twisted central premise.

“The Purge: Anarchy” was the closest DeMonaco came to fulfilling the horror these movies should evoke. In “Election Year” there are glimpses of the wickedness viewers have come to expect from this franchise, but unfortunately that’s diminished by routine action sequences and clichéd characters. A forgetful cast has replaced one once comprised of generally creepy and delirious characters.

As Leo Barnes, Frank Grillo returns from the last “Purge” film and offers nothing different here. He is still the soft-spoken man who has the tactics to fight off any bad guy during Purge night. This time around he plays a bodyguard to senator and presidential candidate Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell). The funniest member of the cast is deli owner Joe Dixon (Mykelti Williamson). He has some over the top dialogue that may sometimes offend but mostly offers effective comic relief in between more dramatic scenes.

The worst character in the movie is Earl Danzinger (Terry Serpico). His characterization is forced through cheap, aggressive visual cues (swastika and confederate flag tattoos adorn his face), and there is nothing memorable from his dull performance. He is just there to issue commands to his henchmen.

The one thing DeMonaco does a nice job at is coming up with inventive ways to incorporate the Purge into different walks of life. At first glance, an election year is a great idea because it would be interesting to see how the political world engages during Purge night. The film starts out promising but then takes a predictable action route, rather than bringing the horror scares and suspense present in the first two films. With that, “Election Year” feels like two entirely different films smushed together.

The first hour delivers on the Purge fun: wild people running around with machetes and baseball bats in elaborate costumes and masks on the hunt for their next victim. Besides one brief but great scene outside a deli—which nails the style, music and costume design this movie should be going for—there is really no memorable Purge night scene in the entire film.

The first two “Purge” movies could stand on their own and contained some fantastic horror sequences. The only other time these sadistic events happen in “The Purge: Election” is in a sudden moment while a character looks out of a car window surveying the brutal behavior people are inflicting on one another. It feels as if DeMonaco spent the movie focusing on the most uninteresting story of the whole night.

The action takes over in the second half and the movie turns into a predictable rescue mission with the kind of excessive gunfire that has no place in a horror film. There are much more effective and intimate weapons that lend themselves to terror. I’d much rather watch villains from the first two “Purge” films return to wreak havoc than watch nameless henchmen wield assault rifles.

“The Purge: Election Year” is ultimately a missed opportunity. The franchise has built itself on the unpredictability and vicious behavior that arises on Purge night, but this movie offers little of that. One would think that DeMonaco would have learned from his previous installments that embracing the horror approach makes this series work. Instead, “Election Year” takes a distinct step backward, leaving viewers far more disappointed than disturbed.

Corey Stein can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @cstein427.

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