The First Purge

The First Purge Movie Poster

There were some positive things about the newest film in the Purge franchise, The First Purge, a prequel showing the experiment that was tried out to see if this idea would work.  The problem I have here is this feels way too close to something that could happen in the world today and that scares me for real.

The First Purge is not subtle in its political leanings and I try to avoid such things when dealing with the movie reviews.  However, it is practically impossible to avoid it when reviewing The First Purge because it is fundamental in the concept.  Heck, they have a movie poster (not the one I used) with a red baseball cap with the words “The First Purge” written on it in white lettering.  Ever seen one like that before?

In a not-too-distant-future, the government is trying to solve the country’s problems by putting on an experiment in Staten Island, New York to see how it would work.  For 12 hours, all crime, including murder, is legal so the American citizens can get their anger out.  It has been dubbed the Purge and there are plenty of people protesting the idea.

Marisa Tomei is the psychologist who came up withe the idea for the Purge as an experiment and it was supported by the NFFA, a third political party that rose up to challenge the Republicans and Democrats.  The New Founding Fathers hoped for this experiment to work because they believed the country had to Purge to survive.

There was little to no explanation to how this idea came to being or passed any sort of law body like Congress, and I think this movie would have been better if it had some background specifics. As it is, it is just another Purge movie which just happens to be the original one.

Our main protagonists were Dmitri (Y’lan Noel), a drug lord in the area, and his former girlfriend and current Anti-Purge activist Nya (Lex Scott Davis).  I found it fascinating that the main hero of the story was a drug lord.  Both Noel and David were solid in their roles and showed that they were capable of carrying the movie.  Dmitri was not always some one you could cheer for, but Noel proved himself to be a future star.

The initial Purge started slowly, with very few people engaging in the criminal behavior.  More people formed “Purge parties” and were dancing and drinking.  I thought this was an interesting choice as well as the film seems to be saying that most people are generally good and do not succumb to their worst instincts easily.

Chief of Staff Arlo Sabian (Patch Darragh) had a solution.  He had arranged for group of mercenaries to go into Staten Island in disguise as gang members and start killing people.  This was where the film really became political as the deaths went directly on racial and class lines.  You basically had the government organizing to murder the low class and the African Americans in the area.

With today’s incendiary climate when dealing with the issues of immigration and the immigrants at the borders, it feels as if something like this is just an unbalanced idea away.  That is a frightening thought.

And these gangs that are unleashed on Staten Island are dressed like Klansmen or Nazis or straight up soldiers.  The imagery is hardly metaphorical.

The third act becomes a basic violent Purge scene that we have seen before.  If you just want chaotic action in your Purge movies, it does get there.  It might feel a little slow in arriving.

I had a hard time enjoying the Purge because the real world kept sneaking into the narrative.  Even the filmmakers are anything but subtle when including some references.  If the country’s current climate was not so challenging, I might have enjoyed it more.  There were solid performances in the film and I am sure that it will make back its money quickly as most Blumhouse films do.

2.75 stars

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