The Purge: Election Year ★★★½

Three films into the Purge series and I’m preoccupied by the issues surrounding the Purge itself. If it’s designed to eliminate the poor, then who provides services for the classes above them? Private insurance is referenced in the story, but who pays for damage to public property? And what about personal assets? The Purge might grant immunity for murder as a felony, but civil matters are another thing; who says you get the money if you kill your parents, as is clearly implied?

Of course none of those questions are answered. There’s far too much else going on here in a film that plays like they had one last shot so threw in everything from the scrapbook. It wisely reprises the gauntlet-run plot from the second instalment — and brings back its standout anti-hero Frank Grillo — though this time it’s a far more explicit reference to Escape From New York, with a presidential candidate (Elizabeth Mitchell) who must be escorted to safety through a city on fire.

The Carpenter homage doesn’t end there, with a mid-film siege at a deli on lockdown only the start of the insanity. Throughout, Election Year is sprinkled with nods to exploitation classics like Death Race 2000 and nutzoid video games like Saints Row and Dead Rising, while also throwing notions like ‘Purge tourism’ and drone warfare into the mix.

It’s ridiculous, yes, and it falls apart at the slightest prodding. But it’s tense as anything, and moves too fast — and escalates too wildly — to ever get boring. What’s more, it might even be more of a Trojan-horse excoriation of the white supremacy that underpins mainstream US culture than its predecessor. (That’s a reach, I’m aware; subtlety is not this franchise’s strong point.)