Review by J.T. Johnson
DIRECTOR: Gerard McMurrary
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Anastas N. Michos
WRITER: James DeMonaco
MUSIC: Kevin Lax
“The First Purge” is the fourth film in “The Purge” franchise, but the title is about as subtle as the social commentary contained within. This movie tells the story of the first Purge, which is an experiment on Staten Island in New York City, New York. The experiment is headed up by Dr. May Updale (Marisa Tomei) and funded by the New Founding Fathers of America, the political party that has risen up and taken control of the country.
The idea is that through venting all of our frustrations and evil desires such as the one to kill, the crime rate for the country will go down. Now, of course, we already knew this due to the fact that the previous three films have told us why the Purge exists. Ultimately, I did enjoy this movie but it admittedly suffers from one fatal flaw and that is the fact that it’s a prequel.
The movie’s story adds nothing to the already established idea. Also, the social commentary is just the same as well. The real motive of the Purge is to get rid of the poor citizens who can’t defend themselves so that the NFFA doesn’t have to take care of them. It’s basically class warfare gone insane.
In this movie, though, I found that I did like the characters and it is how they survive the night that kept me interested. The two main leads are Nya (Lex Scott Davis), an activist that leads protests against the Purge, and her ex-boyfriend Dmitri (Y’Lan Noel), a local criminal kingpin that has a knack for violence but he may just have a heart of gold after all. When the Purge begins, everything is… well… rather tame to be honest.
As it turns out, most of the citizens on the island just want to party in the streets and maybe loot here and there, but the major violence that was predicted doesn’t really occur. It is only when the NFFA steps in with fake gangs (mercenaries in reality) that the violence begins to rise. That’s what I ultimately liked about this film.
It didn’t suggest that the lower class would begin to act like animals, it commented on a government that ultimately doesn’t care about them. There is a surprising amount of faith in the film that the American people will eventually rise up and stop the madness. In the real world where politics in the country has indeed gone off the rails, this is an important message to convey.
It also helps that the movie does contain a fair bit of well executed action violence. Dmitri ends up being the antihero of the film as he helps others rise up against the NFFA’s plans. The movie is not only the story of the first Purge but also the story of the resistance that rose to meet it.
The truth is that if you were not a fan of the other three films, then you are obviously not going to like this film. For long time fans, though, it is an entertaining entry into the series despite the fact that it doesn’t really add anything new at this point.