Rated R. Running time: 1 hour 45 min.
Our content ratings (1-10): Violence 7; Language 6; Sex/Nudity 1.
Our star rating (1-5): 3
Is this any way to run a country? Is there an honest politician in the house?
Behind the scenes you brew cauldrons of evil, behind closed doors you make deals with demons.
The wicked crawl from the wrong side of the cradle; their first words out of the womb are lies. Poison, lethal rattlesnake poison, drips from their forked tongues— Deaf to threats, deaf to charm,
decades of wax built up in their ears.
Having been less than enthusiastic about the original The Purge, I skipped the 2014 sequel, but decided to see this third installment because I wanted to see if there is any connection between the title and current politics. (Also because no other film worked into my schedule during my weekly visit to a nearby cinemaplex.)
Writer-director James DeMonaco’s third film is more of a sequel this time than was the 2014 film, with Frank Grillo’s police sergeant Leo Barnes having moved from Los Angeles to the nation’s capitol where he is head of security for Senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell). She needs all the protection she can get because she is involved in the presidential campaign, the main point in her platform being the abolition of The Purge. She argues that it is the nations’ poor, especially the homeless, that are victimized by the Purge as part of the government’s policy of getting rid of those who are benefiting from government programs. Also her own family had been murdered, she being the sole survivor. The New Founding Fathers (NFF), who have ruled the country for 25 years, are determined to eliminate her during the upcoming 12 hour-period of murder and mayhem called The Purge. They have updated the rules by eliminating the law forbidding any attack on a politician. Now everyone is fair game, though the NFF members will be safe in their fortress bunker.
When I reviewed the original, I dismissed the story’s premises as being unlikely, but today, when we have a political candidate advocating the torture of terrorists and the killing of their families, and the crowds applaud and cheer him, the premise of the series doesn’t seem quite as ridiculous as I had once thought.
Also, in my earlier review I had mentioned that, like so many sci-fi tales, The Purge had ignored the presence of the church. Not this time, the New Founding Fathers seen to be embracing a weird blend of Christianity and pagan blood-sacrifice. Some of the bloodiest of the many shoot-outs in the film are set in a large Washington DC cathedral, the wooden pews punctured by hundreds of bullets and blood running in the aisles.
The film begins with two parallel stories that converge about a fourth of the way into the film. There is African-American convenience owner Joe Dixon (Mykelti Williamson) and his faithful employee Marcos (Joseph Julian Soria), the latter a Mexican immigrant whom he has mentored. At 6 P.M. when the Purge begins, the well-armed Joe is atop his building vowing to protect his livelihood, especially since he has learned that his insurance premiums have been raised beyond his ability to afford them. Marcos joins him, despite Joe’s orders to go home. Sure enough, a van of grotesquely made up and masked people drive up, the occupants turning out to be the arrogant school girls that Joe had caught trying to shoplift that afternoon.
At Senator Roan’s residence Leo is supervising defensive preparations. She has refused to take shelter in a government bunker because she wanted to be like the voters to whom she was appealing. Despite Leo’s vigilance, one of the key staff members has been bribed to sabotage the system, allowing a rogue gang led by skinhead Earl Danzinger (Terry Serpico) to barge into the house. Leo and Charlie manage to escape, taking to the streets, and would have been killed by a gang but for the arrival of Joe and Marcos. There follows a harrowing night of hiding, fleeing, and fighting, which finds the band joining forces with a group that has long opposed The Purge.
As with most such thrillers, there are a lot of improbabilities, but due to all the suspense and action, most viewers will overlook them. As in the second of the films, there is a moral struggle when our heroes plead with one of their number not to wreak vengeance on one of the NFF politicians who has fallen into their hands. Although their appeal that killing the prisoner would lower them all to the level of their enemies, the filmmakers have shown so much violence in gory detail that this worthy moral argument is all but lost.
One of the villains is Minister Edwige Owens (Kyle Secor), Senator Roan’s opponent in the presidential campaign. At first I thought he seemed too far-fetched, a minister who twists Christianity into an affair of violence and hatred. And then I thought of “Christian” anti-abortionists who advocate and defend the killing of abortion doctors, and the Westboro Baptist minister who showed up at the funerals of gay persons with placards declaring that God hates abortionists, and of course, the granddaddy of Christianity distortionists, the KKK. As a character Owens is indeed a stereotype, and yet similar characters do exist in the real world.
When this film was in production its makers could not have known how bizarre the election campaign of 2016 would be. Although no candidate is calling for a Purge (yet), the extreme statements of one of them certainly points in that direction. Let’s hope that reality never catches up with Hollywood!
Most chilling image: In a movie filled with bizarre painted faces and masks, the image that brought a chill to me was a night shot of the iconic Lincoln memorial. We can see the Emancipator’s statue inside, and also painted in dripping blood-colored letters, the word P-U-R-G-E on the pillars. Strewn across the stairway are the bodies of victims, some of them on the right fueling a bond fire.
This review with a set of discussion questions will be in the August issue of VP.