It took three attempts, but the Purge series has finally figured out that essential element that so many horror movies forget: characters whose lives we actually care about! It wasn’t for lack of trying, but it was for lack of casting. Ethan Hawke did what he could in the first Purge, and Frank Grillo managed a decent B-movie hero vibe in Anarchy (thus he is the only main cast member back for Election Year), but overall the tapestry fell flat.
This time around, there is oomph to the targeted senator/presidential candidate (a steady Elizabeth Mitchell). Her survival matters since she is running on an anti-Purge platform. But the real satisfaction comes from the supporting purgers, especially Mykelti Williamson as a deli owner who suddenly finds himself on the senator’s security detail. Williamson leans a bit into Blaxploitation stereotypes, but in a knowing sense, so it is more ridiculous than offensive. It is not perfect, but at least this series finally figured out it needed a huge injection of fun.
As for the bluntly satirical election plot, it is – no surprise – simplistic and silly. It’s not that the Purge couldn’t happen in real life, just that its implementation and potential dissolution wouldn’t be so clean. But hey, this is a movie in which all crimes are legal for one night. It is fine that it breaks the rules and bends sense. It is, in fact, encouraged. More overly simplistic ridiculousness would have been even better.
I give The Purge: Election Year 30 Anti-Purge States out of 50 Pro-Purge States.