The third of The Purge films looks at organised Liberal political resistance to the New Founding Fathers (NFF) and their night of worshipping violence. There is no nuance to the plot or characters. The “good guys” are Senator Charlie Owen, a Liberal politician attempting to change the law within the system, her head of security, Leo Barnes (the former police sergeant from the second film) and the people who support Owen’s campaign. These heroes are pursued throughout the film by the bad guys, the NFF, their White Power Nazis who supply the wealthy populous with Purge Night victims. Far Right America is joined by white “murder tourists” to embrace the purge. Resentments, hatred and the sadistic impulses of American citizens are saved up until the one night of the year where they can let loose without fear of legal consequences. The argument is that crime rarely happens in this new society and that extreme violence once per year eradicates crime for the other 364 days. The link between poverty and crime in society is acknowledged in one way only – as Malthusean population control, legally culling poor neighbourhoods on Purge Night.
In the first film, we witnessed a family, who benefited financially from the purge (security systems salesperson), being targeted by jealous neighbours. In the second we saw how The Purge disproportionately affected people of colour and the rise of an armed resistance group led by the charismatic Carmelo, which actively fought against the powerful, bringing the violence to their privileged doorsteps.
I would have loved this third film to look deeper into this armed resistance group, but instead, it looked at a Liberal politician who wanted to become president to change the law and stop the purge. The parallels of Clinton v Trump were nauseatingly clear at every step. Once again we were taken “down town” to see how the victims of this violent night were overwhelming the poor and black citizens. We do get to see the heroes of the neighbourhoods offering medical services and sanctuary. And these people help and support the Liberal politician during a sustained assassination attempt, ordered by the NFF and carried out by a punch of White Power Nazi soldiers. This is where things get tricky. The politician prevents this group from assassinating the NFF leaders with hollow promises of political change from within. I think we are supposed to leave the film thinking the good guys won. I felt the good guys had been betrayed by Liberal nonsense.
The politician’s sense of morality isn’t challenged while they are taking out the hired guns, but as soon as they reach the rich people who hired them, she whines that killing them would be wrong, that it would make them no better than the New Founding Fathers, and that change can only be made within the existing political system. What frustrates me is how believable the character is. This hypocrisy surrounds us in the West all the time and is rarely questioned. Well, I question it and for me, it made the third film much weaker than the first two.
There were some highlights. Laney and her partner in the paramedic van, the candy girl, and the underground hospital were wonderful. The jump scares were frequent and the violence was bloody. As a horror film it works, but as a story, the end sucks balls.