It’s very rare for a movie franchise to get better with each successive installment (especially in the horror genre), but that’s exactly what writer/director James DeMonaco has done with the “Purge” series, refining the concept each time by carrying over the elements that worked best. Though “The Purge: Election Year” inherits many of the same problems from 2014’s “The Purge: Anarchy,” chief among them the absurdity of the Purge itself, it also builds on its strengths to produce another John Carpenter-styled action thriller that’s equal parts cheesy B-movie and pulpy fun. It’s not necessarily a good film, but what “Election Year” lacks in quality it makes up for with a deft understanding of its audience.
Two years after choosing not to murder the man who killed his son in a drunk driving accident, former police sergeant Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo) is now working as the head of security for Senator Charlene Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell), a fast-rising politician who watched her entire family get massacred during Purge Night 18 years earlier. Senator Roan has been gaining ground on the current presidential frontrunner thanks to a campaign built on ending the Purge once and for all, and the NFFA (the New Founding Fathers of America, a.k.a. the rich white guys behind the Purge) wants her gone before the election. After lifting the immunity clause on all government officials for the upcoming Purge, the NFFA plots to eliminate Roan by attacking the senator at her well-guarded home in Washington, D.C. Forced to go on the run when a trusted staff member betrays them, Leo cautiously teams up with some fellow survivors – including corner shop owner Joe (Mykelti Williamson), Mexican immigrant Marcos (Joseph Julian Soria) and reformed gangbanger Laney (Betty Gabriel) – in order to protect Roan by any means necessary.