Movie Review: Purge: Election Year


I love the Purge movies, which I didn’t expect.  The first one was so claustrophobic.  I really felt it, being trapped in the house with someone set to kill.  I also liked the concept, as it was one my friends and I posited to each other many times in college, albeit ours was slightly different.  We asked each other what we would do if you woke up one day with a loaded gun and the knowledge that there would be no consequences for what you did that day – including regret.  Purge asks us what society would do if for 12 hours once a year you could do whatever you wanted with no legal ramifications- and shows us the chaos that decision brings.

Purge one was about one family.  It was in the home.  It showed us that through the Purge you can see just how much envy and existential boredom leads to pleasure in murder.  Purge:  Anarchy takes us to the streets and a bit more political:  we begin to see that the Purge is a system to allow those with privilege to outright murder those without, it’s making explicit the way many see the systems implicitly work now, to terrorize and subjugate basically anyone who is not a white male, to the point where we’re all there to be the hunted ‘things’ and aren’t human.

Purge:  Election Year hits far to close to home in that we have a female running for president against old white money male.  The female, Charlie, is young and lost her family in the Purge so wants to rid the country of the dire sociopathic straits it has found itself fallen into by the ‘new founding fathers.’  Old money doesn’t want this to happen, so decides to assassinate her during the Purge.  Thus begins the chase, as her faithful security guard, Leo, attempts to keep her alive long enough for people to vote her into the presidency.  They end up at at old man’s neighborhood grocery store, where she and her guard are the only white people there and. . .neither are afraid of the non-white people because, hey, they’re people too (refreshing!) so they join forces to just try and make it through the night.

The Good:  I about had a heart attack with this film in the good ways, but did have to stop it a few times to breathe.  It gets you, or got me, because I have seen that look of entitlement in peoples eyes or heard it in their voice when they think the world is owed them.  For example:

We first meet Joe, the owner of the grocery store, when two teen girls in a catholic/private school are trying to steal candy from him and they are busted.  They come back on the purge to kill him because if they want chocolate, they’re going to get it and it’s theirs.  That soulless logic got to me, but I’ve seen it and was too believable.  They then get mad at him for defending his store so come back with reinforcements.

Another great example of how I think this could happen, or why it feels real, is a segment in the film on ‘murder tourism’ with people coming to the US on Purge night to kill people because, of course they would.  It’s a no-brainer.  We have sexual tourism, running of the bulls, and probably already do have murder tourism as well so calling it out in the film kind of got to me and was brilliant.  People will travel and pay to openly exploit others for their enjoyment because not all people are created human in the eyes of others, it’s something I see all the time working in a healthcare center that focuses on refugee health.

The Purge is turned into a religion by the ‘old white men and women’ who gather in a church to cleanse themselves by stabbing those they get off the street, and the end scene is brutal but scary and ‘good.’  They really kept my heart rate up the entire time.

The Bad:  I flip back and forth about the race relations here, so I’m not sure ‘the bad’ is great for this but does need to be mentioned.  Charlie is white, blond hair blue eyes white female.  She wants to end the Purge because she recognizes it’s just another way, and an incredibly violent one at that, to abuse the poor and other already marginalized parts of the community.  Everyone in Joe’s grocery store is non-white and they talk about voting for her to help them.  Now, she ends up at that store and they work to save her, which on one end is a great twist of the Mighty Whitey trope, where a white person comes into a community not their own and saves them from themselves and outside forces. Everyone works really hard to save Charlie, even putting aside their own needs (Joe loses his store, Bishop loses his quest to kill King White Man and keeper of the purge) to do so.

BUT, they are doing this because ultimately she IS The Mighty White person who can save them all.  And they die to make sure she survives to do it.  I honestly am not sure how to weigh in on that.

The Female:  There are a lot of men in this film.  A LOT.  There are teams of them coming after Charlie.  There are her bodyguards.  There are those in the community trying to save her.  Doctors, politicians, etc.  There are TWO females with names I remember, not counting the girls who try to steal from Joe’s place.  They are:

Charlie:  The current senator and great hope of the downtrodden.  She will rise up and rid the world of the purge thus making her a target.  To some extent, what she goes through is the every day life of a female.  The outside space is not safe for her because she can be attacked at any time.  She has to have a man, her bodyguard, to protect her from other men, just like a woman has to say she’s ‘taken’ by another to get some guys to leave them alone.  And unintentional metaphor on their part, perhaps. She has lines, she speaks, she’s shown to not care if a person is black or white and to be otherwise saintly (Such as talking to some guy in an infirmary and laughing with him and imploring that her rival not be murdered and become a martyr) but she is the protected one.

Laney:  The bad girl gone good.  She drives around during the Purge night to bring injured people to a volunteer infirmary.  She loves Joe, who helped turn her around, and is loyal to him.  She kicks ass and has agency and is trying to help save her community.  She saves a lot of people during the purge, including Joe and Charlie.

While there are only two women in the film, at least they are prominent and I do believe they talk to each other about silly women things like surviving, so it passes the Bechdel test (2 women, talking to each other, not about a man).

I definitely dug this, even if it ups the anxiety a bit as it seems so close to happening!


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