The First Purge Movie Review
In the fantasy world of The First Purge, minorities are in danger of getting murdered at disproportionally high rates after the U.S. government implements new policies that disadvantage the poor. There are no political undertones whatsoever.
The franchise rebounds after the so-so The Purge: Election Year, with creator James DeMonaco relegating directing duties to Gerard McMurray but maintaining writing duties. The prequel looks at the psychological/political experiment that set ups the annual nationwide purge—12 hours of lawlessness where theft, rape, murder and other forms of mayhem are condoned—seen in previous films.
After Election Year got muddled with too much plot and politicisms, The First Purge simplifies things while establishing a quasi-believable basis for how such a concept was implemented in the first place. The movie gets a little bogged down with rather bland scenes of a dull politician (Patch Darragh) and a psychologist (Marisa Tomei, for some reason) observing their experiment from afar, but the scenes feel at least slightly necessary. And the rest of the movie is fast-paced fun, with some fucked-up moments and moderately enjoyable action scenes scattered throughout.
Like its predecessors, The First Purge isn’t high class entertainment; the writing is shaky, some of the characters annoying (the cast, consisting almost entirely of black and Latino actors, become trapped in some pretty stereotypical race roles, though Lex Scott Davis escapes largely unscathed and delivers a fine performance to boot), and the political messages too on the nose.
But it is bloody, glorious fun at times, a movie that is willing to embrace its cheesiness even if the cheese appears to be largely unintentional. It never comes close to matching the absolutely bonkers second film (The Purge: Anarchy)—the apex of the franchise, because it was more concerned with going ape-shit crazy than being political—but The First Purge has its flashes of brutal craziness, exemplified by the off-the-wall loony Skeletor (played with sadistic glee by Rotimi Paul).
The First Purge could have been better, but if you liked the other Purge movies, it’s another solid entry in the franchise. Thank God the country could never end up like this. Could it?
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.