(On Cable TV, April 2017) Every successive film in The Purge series has done better justice to the concept of its premise. Unfortunately, every successive film’s impact has also been blunted by our familiarity with the series, to the point where The Purge: Election Year almost does justice to the enduringly dumb premise, but it still feels like a re-hash given that we’ve seen the first two films anyway. While it flirts with heavier political ideas than the previous film, it undercuts its own material by bringing in quasi-religious snippets that feel tired and cartoonish. Still, the emphasis here remains on the heroes living through the night, blending high and low society in-between a presidential candidate, a shopkeeper and a notorious EMT whose backstory remains blessedly obscure. Frank Grillo’s character returns, but the links between this and the previous installment remain tenuous. Elizabeth Mitchell and Betty Gabriel both make good impressions, but this remains a premise-centric show with a horror film’s fondness for gruesome set-pieces. Exactly the kind of movie that’s dulled by too-frequent repetition. I’m neither too enthusiastic nor too critical of The Purge: Election Year, but it’s a good thing I didn’t watch all three films back-to-back-to-back, otherwise I’m not sure I’d like it as much. This being said, mark me down a nominally interested in a remake ten years from now, but only on the condition that it actually explores some of the ideas of The Purge in greater details and consistency than what we’ve seen so far.
(On Cable TV, June 2015) Even after two movies in which to explain themselves, I still think that the very premise of The Purge series is nonsensical, perhaps even moronic. Twenty-hours of unpunishable violence? Yeah, I’m sure that’s going to solve problems. Still, even the least impressed reviewers will admit that The Purge: Anarchy goes much farther in fulfilling its ambitions than its prequel: Writer/Director James DeMonaco at least has the guts to try something more challenging. While the first film was a glorified home-invasion horror movie, the sequel is a pure thriller, much of it spent running in order to avoid the violence of The Purge. Carmen Ejogo and Zoe Soul make for a compelling mother-daughter pair of protagonists stuck in a bad situation. Still, they can’t do much to raise the level of a film content in hitting the same targets with unsubtle bluntness. Its attempts at social conscience (in acknowledging the The Purge weeds out the weak to the benefit of the powerful) don’t seem particularly well-developed, once again mistreating a high-possibilities premise into nothing much more than a pretext for ludicrous suspense. While The Purge: Anarchy works on a basic thrill-machine level, it quickly becomes frustrating as soon as we have time to start asking questions.