Eighteen years ago, Senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell) suffered a horrendous loss when her family were tortured and murdered by a maniac in her own home, and he managed to get away scot free. Why didn't the police go after him? That's because the crime was committed on the night of the annual Purge, an event across the United States where all crime is legal for the hours of darkness, meaning the citizens can get away with anything they wish as long as they remain law-abiding for the rest of the year. This has led some to claim the whole night is a way of keeping the lower classes in check, for it is they who suffer the most from it, and Roan is one of those wanting the practice banned forever. And she wants to become President to ensure it is...
The Purge series continued its expanding plotline, widening its focus from the first instalment where it detailed one middle class home under siege to the second where it went out onto the streets on that fateful evening to see the repercussions on a cross section of society, and here it grappled with the implications of living under a criminal authority which has rendered that society horribly hypocritical when it can believe it is a noble and Godfearing way of life, but all that goes out of the window when the actually have a chance to give into their worst impulses as a corrosive form of national catharsis. Director and writer James DeMonaco was not about to dial down the politics, that much was clear.
Indeed, in a year when American politics seemed more fractured than ever considering one of the most mean-spirited and caustic Presidential contests of all time, most pop culture chose to leave the subject of running the country to the comedians who would make increasingly useless-seeming jokes about how terrible things had become, but were powerless to change anything. The trouble with that was, it made politics look like entertainment when it was far graver than that, so you could in all sincerity look to Election Year and regard it as one of the broadest of genres - the sci-fi/horror crossover - that was one of the few to wonder about the consequences of a climate where throwing insults and seeing life as a series of battles to be won were affecting every area of the world.
Not that a Purge movie was going to be especially subtle about it, this still wanted to deliver on the action sequences and murder, and for that it was looked down upon by most, or treated as one of those political jokes at least, yet DeMonaco was perfectly serious on his goals for prompting the audience to think on his nightmare scenario and weigh up the possibilities of something this divisive actually occurring. The problem with that was, the way current events were going, there was possibly a sizeable contingent who would think this adolescent but deadly method of score settling and keeping order was a pretty good idea, people who see their leaders and how nasty they were in their dealings with the opposition and basically turn life into an internet flame war, only with genuine weapons to hand.
The self-awareness of The Purge only went so far, and it was debatable whether it went that far, but for what it was the third effort satisfied those wanting the urban warfare action as well as those who could appreciate its satirical edge, which was more like a blunt instrument in a fair few scenes. As the night of mayhem has been extended this Election to include anyone, the politicians as well as the hoi polloi, it's apparent Senator Roan had better watch out for the party in power have it in for her, leading to the plot turning into an assassination thriller of sorts. This dovetails into the plight of Mykelti Williamson's grocery store which he is trying to protect, and somehow he teams up with Frank Grillo's Leo, returning from the previous movie, as his job as a security officer, so as more joined we had the ragtag group building up over the course of the narrative. It was not a complex plot by any means, but DeMonaco laced it with interesting details and observations, chief among them the false piety of the lawmaker bad guys being worse than the teenage girl who wants to murder the store owner because he caught her shoplifting. These were never going to be classic films, but they took the bull by the horns in ways to be relished. Music by Nathan Whitehead.