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Movie Review

The future is here. And in this enlightened age, America has found the most expedient way to deal with its budget crises. Cut backs? Hiked taxes? Nah. Murder is the way to go, don't you know?

For years now, the U.S. political class—led by the New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA)—have used an event called the Purge to help balance the books and polish some of the country's rough edges. Hey it even helps get rid of, um, unwanteds, if you will.

Once a year, for 12 hours, everyone in the nation is given a free ticket to pilfer, pillage, murder and maim to their heart's content.

Welfare class too big to sustain? Just spark a night of slum-centered residential rampage and shrink the number of those on the government dole. Yearly crime rates too high? Don't worry, the criminal herd will be radically thinned out if you arm the right people. Tired of all those crumbling shantytown buildings? Simply park a gas tanker in the right part of town, and let human nature take its course. And for anyone having trouble with a spouse, hey, the Purge can help out there, too. You'd be amazed how it improves divorce rates.

Now, there are a few folks who aren't sold on this brilliant idea, Sen. Charlene Roan chief among them. She saw her family butchered on Purge night some years back. And she's desperately wanted the practice stopped ever since.

But bleeding-heart whiners like her just don't understand the concept of working for the greater good, according to Purge purveyors. This woman and her ilk probably would have the country return to the archaic days of caring for the poor, they say.

Still, some of the supposedly unwashed masses are actually beginning to listen to the controversial, countercultural senator. Roan's even decided to run for president, campaigning on the promise to eliminate the Purge by executive order.

Suffice to say that Sen. Roan's do-gooder impulses virtually guarantee that someone's going to try to do bad to her when this year's Purge rolls around … especially since one recent rule change has lifted the former ban against targeting the political class.

Positive Elements

Sen. Roan appears to be one of the few politicans (if not the only one) willing to condemn the horrors of the Purge. She does so at great personal risk to herself, even when killers seek to take her out. In fact, when asked why she is willing to keep going when people are threatening her life, she replies, "The soul of the country is at risk."

Roan also stands up to a group of community freedom fighters who plan on murdering some NFFA members. She pleads that murder won't solve society's problems (though much of the film itself problematically seems to suggest otherwise).

Joe, an inner-city deli owner, has consistently reached out to help community members in need. He's given a job to a Mexican immigrant named Marcos, helped guide a female gang member named Laney Rucker and even stepped into the death-drenched streets to rescue Sen. Roan. "I ain't no saint," he reports. "I'm just doing my part."

Because of Joe, Laney has gone from self-centered gangbanging to helping others. She drives a triage truck during the Purge and aids the fallen at the risk of her own life. A number of doctors and volunteers do their life-saving part, too.

Spiritual Content

As the Purge commences, Laney whispers, "Vaya con Dios" (literally, "Go with God" in Spanish, though it's commonly used as a synonym for "good-bye") to a fellow triage worker. A public service announcement (in English) ends similarly: "May God be with you all."

Other spiritual references in the film, however, are of a darker, blasphemous sort. NFFA leaders and their families gather at a local church where they chant and sing hymn-like songs in a cult-like ceremony. Among other things, it involves talk of Jesus and the sacrifice of a man whose death will supposedly cover their sins. One of their number proclaims that it's their "godly duty to Purge." And we later find out they planned to murder a large group of captives in God's name.

After killing a man, a robe-garbed church leader pants in crazed ecstasy. Later, another leader falls to his knees, speaks of being a "son of God" and begins speaking in indecipherable, similarly ecstatic tongues.

Sexual Content

The spiritual ecstasies noted above seem almost sexual in nature. A group of female Purgers wear very revealing outfits that consist of garter belts and skimpy lingerie.

Violent Content

This extremely bloody, gory film depicts men and women dying in myriad brutal ways. Implements inflicting death include: guillotines, knives, swords, axes, fire, bombs, gunshots and arrows. Victims are accordingly decapitated, slashed, hacked, stabbed, incinerated, burned, shot and tortured. Throats are cut, heads explode, and blood splatters and gushes freely. Some unfortunate victims even get strapped helplessly to the front of speeding cars to be used as human battering rams.

Some of the individual incidents of violence worth noting specifically are the following: A wife weeps after shooting her husband and reporting that it didn't make her feel any better. People are hung from tree branches. Two teen girls are hit by a speeding truck, and one is finished off with a shotgun blast to the face. A group of foreign "murder tourists" roam the streets and batter a couple of victims while shrieking that they will skin them and violate their flesh.

Crude or Profane Language

More than 30 f-words and a dozen s-words are joined by a handful of uses each of "a--," "b--ch," "h---" and "d--n." God's and Jesus' names are both profaned repeatedly, with the former being combined with "d--n" three times. We also hear several extremely crude slang references to genitalia and oral sex.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Joe and Marcos drink beer.

Other Negative Elements

The bloody battles between NFFA officials and the community freedom fighters play out predominantly as a race war: All of the NFFA members wear Nazi-ish necklaces and are white, while nearly all of the freedom fighters are black. A black female gang member sneering tells Laney (who's also African American), "Ms. Rucker, you lookin' all whitish now."

Military and non-military thugs in the streets wear everything from bloody masks of former presidents to jackets covered with "white power" symbols and other racist patches.

In addition, it's worth noting that previous films in the Purge franchise (there have been three, beginning with Purge in 2010) have been linked to several violent copycat crimes. The most recent involved a 19-year-old Indianapolis man who allegedly was inspired by The Purge to murder three people over the course of four nights in May 2016.

Conclusion

No matter how you strain your movie metaphors or parse your cinematic symbolism, the fact is that The Purge: Election Year is a nasty, blunt bludgeon of a movie. This is a gruesome psychodrama about class and racial warfare that projects an almost cartoonishly slanted political message. (That's if a humorless vision of Nazi-like one-percenters butchering the downtrodden poor and then being butchered by them in turn can be considered cartoonish. Or political.)

Worse even than that, though, is this flick's jarringly erratic Jekyll-and-Hyde persona. On one hand, its creators imply that they want to condemn the dark, violent, hateful impulses of human nature. But on the other hand, they deliberately incite the audience to cheer rabidly when their own rancid and horrible character creations are massacred in one bloody manner or another.

In other words, We hate the hate, but, woohoo, ain't it entertaining!?

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Content Caution

Kids
Teens
Adults

Credits

Rating

R

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Elizabeth Mitchell as Senator Charlene Roan; Frank Grillo as Leo Barnes; Mykelti Williamson as Joe; Joseph Julian Soria as Marcos; Raymond J. Barry as Caleb Warrens; Terry Serpico as Earl; Kyle Secor as Minister Edwidge Owens; Betty Gabriel as Laney Rucker

Director

James DeMonaco ( )

Distributor

Universal Pictures

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

July 1, 2016

On Video

October 4, 2016

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Bob Hoose

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