Starring: Frank Grillo, Elizabeth Mitchell, Mykelti Williamson, Joseph Julian Soria, Betty Gabriel, Edwin Hodge
Rated R for Disturbing Bloody Violence and Strong Language
It's rare that we get a horror movie that provokes thought. Most are mindless ghost stories or brainless gorefests. "The Purge" franchise (with the exception of the first one, which I'm going to pretend doesn't exist) does. I'm not talking Stanley Kubrick or anything, but it does get you thinking about morality and the psychological drives of violence. I enjoy that aspect of these two movies, although the implication that a significant portion of the U.S. population is psychopathic and will sadistically torture and kill anyone they can find (if allowed to do so) is a little scary.
Despite saving the country from economic ruin, the annual Purge, a 12 hour period where all crime (including murder) is legal, remains controversial. Some support it with an almost religious zeal. Others risk their lives to save its most vulnerable targets (the homeless, the poor) and those caught in the crossfire.
Ever since her family was murdered during The Purge, Senator Charlie Roan (Mitchell) has been an outspoken opponent of the annual bloodbath. Now a presidential candidate running on the platform of ending the violence, she is Public Enemy #1 for The New Founding Fathers of America. They view her as a threat, and to prevent her from setting foot in the White House, they institute a new rule: anyone, no matter how important or powerful, can be killed during The Purge. Her trusty security agent, Leo Barnes (Grillo) locks her up tight, but they are betrayed and have to go on the run. Meanwhile, a deli store owner named Joe Dixon (Williamson) is out trying to protect his deli from looters who have threatened him. And Laney Rucker (Gabriel) is out rescuing people trapped in hell.
As much as it pains me to say it, this new installment has too much plot for its own good. "The Purge: Anarchy" worked because it was about five people trying to get from point A to point B. It was them against the world. While inserting political arguments and intrigue into the mix gives it food for thought, it dilutes the film's strengths.
At least the performances are effective. Up-and-coming character actor Frank Grillo returns to play the character he portrayed in the previous installment. He's just as tough and focused, but writer/director James DeMonaco gives him a little bit more to work with. Elizabeth Mitchell, another talented character actress who gets far too few roles, is terrific. Charlie is smart and determined with an uncanny gift to connect with people. In other words, she's a great politician. Mykelti Williamson is his usual reliable self as Joe, providing some of the film's gallows humor (although the race jokes are more awkward than funny).
The bottom line about this movie is the same as it is with most sequels: if you liked the others, you'll like this one.