- Directed by Gerard McMurray
- July 4, 2018
The story of the events of the very first Purge Night.
For me prequel films are very hit or miss. I personally do not need to be shown origin stories or how things start. Broad strokes with enough data to get me through a film with my imagination left to do the rest are fine. Enough was talked about in the previous three films to give the viewing audience a solid understanding of the situation. We knew why it was being done and who the Purge actually targeted. An origin added nothing really new.
The First Purge is not a bad film but it is a sequel that tells an origin and sometimes leaving what happened in the past up to the imagination of the viewer is better than showing the viewer what actually happened. By showing the origins of the night it is less ominous and disturbing. Demystifying something makes it less of everything.
Keep stories moving forward rather than taking steps back. You can constrain yourself by going backwards. It is harder to have revelations if you are at the beginning. As it is the film is not a bad action movie but it is a somewhat weaker film than the two mid movies in the series because it is constrained.
Before the first Purge, it is shown that the NFFA is actively recruiting individuals to participate in order to monitor what is going on. They claim they need test subjects to study the event but it is clear they are looking to capture footage of the participants to market the concept.
Unfortunately things do not go as planned and it is quickly learned by the psychologist (Marisa Tomei) monitoring the experiment that the NFFA is sending in individuals to look like residents or gangs to up the Purge numbers. We are shown that despite being able to do just about anything they wanted without repercussions, the citizens of this particular area of Staten Island initially choose to mostly party and engage in some petty theft. Most of them save for a featured character referred to as Skeletor (Rotimi Paul) that is. He is just the type of crazy the NFFA wants and perhaps one of the more disturbing participants in any of the films.
I was bothered by the character of Dmitri (Y’lan Noel). Not the performance but rather the character. Dimitri is a drug lord with a heart of gold. I am not sure the two things are compatible. I am not sure how a guy willing to sell everything from weed to cocaine and meth to the general population in his neighborhood can be abruptly redeemed into a nice guy who is willing to fight to save lives. I might feel differently if they framed it as him trying to maintain his customer base but even that would be sketchy.
Nya (Lex Scott Davis), an anti-Purge activist, is a former girlfriend that Dimitri still has feelings for who finds herself forced to survive the night and serves as Dimitri’s ultimate source of redemption. Nya was a good character but serving as a way to redeem Dimitri turned her into a token girlfriend character. Strong, independent female character? Not so much.
Isaiah (Joivan Wade) is Nya’s brother who initially decides to participate in the Purge experiment to get back at Skeletor who cut him with a blade early in the film. He is a low-level drug dealer working for Dimitri (though Dimitri is unaware of it). Steve Harris shows up as Freddy. He is one of the better actors here and in my opinion criminally underused in an ultimately minor part.
The themes of racism and classism are a little bit more to the front and center of the movie. The First Purge is a bit of a ham-fisted commentary on the fears some had of the Trump presidency and conservatives in general at the time in my opinion. They finally got a Purge film with a clear message out. The others got close but never quite there.
This is the first film in the series that creator James DeMonaco did not direct. He did write the script and produced along with Jason Blum of Blumhouse Productions, Michael Bay, Andrew Form, and Brad Fuller of Platinum Dunes, and Sébastien K. Lemercier.
The First Purge is a good action film and a good thriller. It is not the best of the bunch, but it is not terrible either. If you have seen the first three films this is worth giving a view, but it should not be your introduction to the Purge Universe.