Tuesday, 10 July 2018

The Purge: Election Year

Better in every conceivable way than its predecessors, The Purge: Election Year stops mucking about with wishy-washy paranoia and instead goes straight for the throat. America is ruled by a cathedral full of mummified Freemasons who fix elections by sending white supremacist death squads after popular third-party candidates. Homocide: Life on the Street's Kyle Secor is their Great White Hope, a frothing pastor who plays vanilla and civil in-front of the cameras then snarls and clicks in private. Writer-director James DeMonaco invests his film with a slyness lacking in his previous efforts, there's more of a sense that he's reacting to our fracturing reality rather than just pushing at an iterative franchise idea.

This new vitality is most obvious in how Election Year re-organises the idea of The Purge along explicitly religious lines, meaning the recent, absurd diktat is treated as if it has been chiselled into ancient stone. Likewise, pro-Purge politicians talk around the cull in the sanctimonious circles of someone pretending there's a chance they might somehow offend God. Faith is wielded like a cudgel, beating down the grasping serfs until they comply with their own extermination. Threat in the third Purge film springs from a moneyed, comfortable political class unwilling to share their success with anyone else. The New Founding Fathers would rather everyone else fought over scraps. They are old, white and functionally presentable which actually contrasts nicely with the lightly diverse, prim-and-proper middle class seen in DeMonaco's first film. If you're not Caucasian you can climb but only so far.

The bee in the plutocrats' bonnet is Elizabeth Mitchell's Charlie Roan, an anti-Purge Presidential candidate, herself a survivor of the night's dubious festivities. Targeted by Nazi stormtroopers and her own security detail, Roan and her bodyguard escape into the streets, colliding with the working class people powering Election Year's B plot. Up until this point, the series has struggled to fold its disparate storylines into one cohesive whole. The Purge featured an unhinged boyfriend that seemed to be a way to introduce the prolonged threat of a cuckoo into Ethan Hawke's nest before revealing itself as a disposable device thrown in to make sure Adelaide Kane's daughter stayed half-dressed. Election Year is the most successful Purge yet then because it unites its characters and threads into one adrenalised push of political upheaval. The resulting violence may be a little Hays Code but the effort is appreciated.

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