HERE IS MY SPOILERS WARNING... YOU'VE BEEN WARNED!
The Purge: Election Year
Alright... so I just saw The Purge: Election Year a couple of days back.. I may not remember all of my initial impressions but Michael Scott sums it up well enough for me:
TO BE FAIR... I didn't see the first two purge movies... but if you haven't seen them either, here is the basic gist. I do jump around a lot in this, as I remember parts that bugged me, so fair warning.
I guess the U.S. Government (portrayed as a bunch of old rich white guys -obviously not shying away from any stereotypes or biases here) sanctions an annual purge that takes place on March 21st of every year. For twelve hours ALL CRIME is legal -including murder.
Now, in the movie they justify this as population control. But the average joe in the movie claims that it is really for the sake of lightening the economic load on the welfare system, and a "war" against minorities and the poor put on by the 1%, and the rich fat old white guys in Washington.
Here... just watch the trailer:
Anyway, actress Elizabeth Mitchell plays a Senator named Charlie Roan who witnessed her family get killed in a purge when she was a little girl.
So having witnessed such a horrific act, she sets out to win the presidential election and executive action to end the purge. (in the gif above, that is a giant swinging ax. In the movie they just stand there and then time a quick run across it, when they could have easily ducked under it... seriously, they could've just ducked.)
Actor Frank Grillo plays a body guard named Leo Barnes who is in charge of protecting Senator Roan.
Anyway so before the election the rich white guys running the government all decide that Roan must die. So they hire the most overtly racist skinheads ever. Seriously, ever patch I think the costumers could get their fingers on that was related to white power in some way, found its way onto the body armor of the skin heads. Just in case the giant white power tattoos on their faces didn't drive the point home. (I tried to find a picture to show you, but if you see the movie you will immediately know who I'm talking about.)
Here are some parts I didn't like/thought were dumb. There are too many to list, so I picked just a few.
The Fact that Senator Roan Chose to Stay in Her House, and Apparently EVERY Secret Service Agent Except for One is "On The Take":
Alright, so I get that Senator Roan wants to connect with her voter base... but I don't think anyone going up against such an ominous and powerful government force would stay at home. I also don't think every single agent except for Leo Barnes would blindly follow orders. They're still all people with their own thoughts and consciences.
If you're already doing as well as Roan is, before the Purge.... I doubt you'll lose if you go somewhere for safety rather than just seeking refuge with a handful of secret service agents in your house.
The Random Suitcase Bomb:
Another really dumb moment is when Leo Barnes randomly has a suitcase bomb. Just in case. There was no prior mention of him having a device, but when the skinheads break into the senators home, he just whips it out and primes it to blow up once he gives the command over his phone. WHAT? Maybe I missed it, but I don't remember there being any heads up about the bomb. They really should've given the viewer more of a hint that Leo had a device like that. I don't think the Secret Service just carries around suitcase bombs. I could be wrong.
The Candy Bar Craving of the Century:
There is a deli owner played by actor Mykelti Williamson named Joe Dixon. He ends up joining up with Roan and Barnes. Early in the movie these two schoolgirls (one of them portrayed by actress Brittany Mirabile) who are total jerks try to steal a candy bar, and get stopped. "School Girl #1" who I found out is also dubbed "Freak Bride" / Kimmy (great naming right?), swears vengeance on Joe Dixon. So then when the purge starts they come back with Christmas decorated cars, and blinged-out gold plated AK-47s. But they don't really use them. It's the most pointless, and one of the stupidest, scenes in the entire movie -and any movie I've seen really. Well, one of the stupidest.
The Lack of Ambient Noises:
OK so if this purge is taking place in a densely populated urban area, I'd expect to be hearing gunshots, sirens, music, wailing, or a myriad of other ambient noises during outdoor scenes. BUT NO. During outside conversations and sequences, it is almost as if the rest of the city is forgotten.
These Random Dancers:
OK, so to be fair I have never been part of a purge... since it doesn't exist. But with how they portray it in the movie, I don't think that you would last long randomly dancing around a brightly lit tree with hanging bodies. Seriously, you'd probably be gunned down or run over in a few seconds... this was a stupid part on the part of the writers just to make the whole event seem spooky/weird/disturbing. It just felt too random.
Going off the hanging bodies above... the lack of other dead bodies, or people on the street in general:
OK so during wide sweeping shots exterior shots there are essentially no bodies or other people running around purging unless it is convenient for the plot. I know that in the movie we see a truck going around removing dead bodies, and that sort of works I guess, but one truck couldn't be everywhere to clean up every body that fast. They could have at least CGI'd some people in there in post production.
Only seeing one pseudo-ambulance, and that ambulance still functioning when it shouldn't:
OK so Betty Gabriel plays this woman named Laney Rucker who I guess was some big shot in one of the other movies, drives this ambulance around where they pick up wounded people and take them to this underground medical center. I only saw one ambulance like this, even though it's implied that other medical teams drive around too... Oh, this ambulance also got strafed by a chain gun from a helicopter... and no one in it who was important died. Oh, and the ambulance still was able to drive after being lit up straight down the middle. I mean, maybe it's possible... but I doubt it.
The Destruction/Damaging of National Monuments:
OK, so if we are going to say the government does the purge for economic reasons... then I will claim that I don't think the same government would allow the destruction/vandalism of national monuments, since these are huge tourist attractions and help to bring in millions and millions of dollars into the surrounding area annually.
Portraying the bad guys all as religious nuts/right wing.
OK, so I'm a religious individual, and happen to be on the right. So it's kind of annoying to see the stereotypes of the right-wing religious radical waging a war on the destitute. Maybe I'm just being over sensitive on this one part... but they make all of the bad guys seem to be these Judeo religious extremists... oh and they're all white. Even the secret service is all white... and at the end you see the election map where Senator Roan wins, and all of her states are blue... while the bad guys are red...
From a writing perspective:
OK, so a lot of my major problems with the movie was the lack of hinting at things before they happened... like when Leo Barnes just happened to have a suitcase bomb.
In writing it is important to let the reader know of the extent of capabilities for individuals in your story, or what they have. Unless I missed it (I don't think I did) a simple solution to this suitcase bomb problem that irked me the rest of the movie, would have been to just show Leo and his other agents doing an equipment check, with Leo just double checking the contents of the suitcase before putting it behind the desk he took it from. So then when he suddenly used it, it wouldn't be a "What? Where did that come from?" moment.
Chekhov's Gun would be a good think to think about to avoid pitfalls this movie had. It is an important concept in writing/ storycraft that is often mentioned... if you don't know what it is, here:
Chekhov's gun is a dramatic principle that requires every element in a narrative to be irreplaceable, with anything else removed. Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off.
So, if they'd just alluded to some of the equipment or events in the movie earlier on... it would've made a bit more sense.
Do yourself a favor:
Purge and Purify your expectations for this movie. If you want to grab a few drinks with buddies and go see it, it is fun. But don't expect a great plot... and expect plenty of "what the hell?" moments.
Do yourself a favor and go see "The Shallows" instead! Just saw it today, fun movie. Won't be going into the ocean for a while...
What did you think?
Let me know in the comments what you thought. Did you see the movie? Favorite parts? Least favorite parts? Was I totally off the mark? Do you have dumb parts you would like to share? Shout out below!
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I will do my best to be posting new content every Wednesday. Tentatively dubbed "Workshop Wednesday" I will relatively unedited practice pieces I create to work on certain aspects of the writing craft. Bear in mind military service and training schedules are unpredictable and may be cause for the occasional late post.
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Matthew Taylor was born February 13, 1991 in Simi Valley, California. He earned a Bachelor's degree in Political Science from California State University Channel Islands, where he served as treasurer and briefly President of one of the campus's two political clubs. While earning his degree he continued to write and hone his craft, eventually releasing an initial few short stories on Kindle.