A look at the Purge story so far …
With The First Purge in cinemas, here are my Empire reviews of The Purge and The Purge Anarchy.
And my notes on The Purge: Election Year (2016)
In all probability, history will remember this topically-themed entry in the scurrilous, surprisingly smart franchise for having an electoral outcome at odds with what happened in the real world – at the end, the liberal woman candidate, Senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell), is swept to power and her evil old white guy opponent Edwidge Owens (Kyle Secor) – who is devoted with religious fervour to the Purge as an embodiment of American values – is humiliated in defeat. Neither Mitchell nor Secor go quite the obvious route and model their performances on the real-life players in the US election, but there are deliberate parallels with the issues of 2016 – the horrible irony being that the Purge films represent a great many Americans as psychotic and murderous assholes but writer-director James DeMonaco still has faith that the electorate would reject them at the ballot box. He’s also smart enough here to extend the indictment to the rest of the world, with ‘murder tourists’ from other countries (South Africa, Denmark, Russia) arriving just before Purge Day to take part in the annual orgy of violence just like Americans – one of the more bizarre gangs who feature here are a bunch of foreigners kitted up in punk caricature Statue of Liberty, Uncle Sam or Honest Abe costumes as they go on a short-lived murder spree. Roan is betrayed by members of her team and hit squads are after her on Purge night, so she’s guarded on a flight through Washington by security agent Barnes (Frank Grillo), held over from the first sequel, and falls in with Joe Dixon (Mykelti Williamson), owner of a corner deli-and-sweetshop who is committed to defending his own slice of the American dream from cutie-pie schoolgirl shoplifters who come back after dark in bloodied prom dresses with automatic weapons to get their candy. Dante Bishop (Edwin Hodge), the anti-purge activist whose arc has continued since the first film, is more organised this time round, with underground triage facilities to replace the shut-down medical services and the evil establishment is more ritualised, with a planned climax involving the human sacrifice of Senator Roan on an altar in a cathedral patronised by rich old bastards (no one can call a female senator a cunt with quite the vicious fervour Raymond J. Barry manages in yet another bigwig villain role). Though the political stakes are raised here, there is a certain inevitable part-three-of-a-series repetition setting in – the first film was a siege movie and the second a lost patrol picture (owing more than a little to The Warriors), and this more or less reprises that but with a national figure among the tough survivor group. The Purge Anarchy ended with Barnes abandoning violent revenge, and the crux here is Roan insisting the demented Owens (Secor is splendid as a maniac) be allowed to live to contest the election so the purge system can be democratically eliminated rather than perpetuated by civil war.
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