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Even an experiment with the best of intentions can go horribly awry…
The First Purge takes us back to the birth of a movement with some reasonably successful results as it plays more like a John Carpenter dystopian action movie then something straight up horror as it successfully delivers a political message wrapped up inside all of the violence that we see going on.
It’s a simple experiment, in order to push the crime rate below one percent for the rest of the year; the New Founding Fathers of America that tests a sociological theory that vents aggression for one night in one isolated community. However, when the violence of oppressors meets the rage of the marginalized this contagion of rage explodes out of the tri-city borders and spread across the nation.
Having shifted out of the straight horror/home invasion angle of the first installment of the franchise; The First Purge may not be the greatest movie in the world but it does work as a dystopian like action thriller with a political statement that is becoming more and more relevant by the day.
With writer/director James DeMonaco handing over the directorial reigns to Gerard McMurray (DeMonaco still wrote the script) and we get a solid effort that still gives us a decent set-up and makes some pretty pointed statements about the state of the union for our friends to the south.
Even though it’s a prequel, it does successful do away with any unnecessary exposition that is common place in a franchise like this yet there’s still enough going on that even a first time viewer to the Purge series will get it straight away. It wades into the origins which while just sitting there on the surface are effective enough to get the ball rolling on a story. It might have given the material a bit more depth to see what pushed America to this new political party and the ultimate reasoning behind the launch of this experiment, but that would require a prequel to the prequel which is just messy filmmaking.
Ultimately we get the point thought, poor and ethnic means you’re a bad person and need to be wiped out under the new rubric of American democracy. Sure it’s fiction, but we get closer and closer to this being documentary which is what actually generates the scary moments in this film. For the most part everyone involved plays it fairly straight.
Y’Lan Noel and Lex Scott Davis both carry the material well even in spite of their lack of on screen credits between the two of them. It’s a really a story about the birth of two young community leaders and in that sense it all plays exactly as it should. Sadly Marisa Tomei as the originator behind the Purge just doesn’t have a ton to do and a handful of credibly supporting players like Steve Harris, Joivan Wade & Luna Lauren Velez come in to add a little bit of acting creditability and legitimacy to the ensemble.
The picture and sound quality on the Blu-Ray are first rate as you’d expect but the special features are a little lacking with just some short behind the scenes featurettes on the film.
Ultimately, The First Purge is a decent entry into this franchise with some solid action and a relatable story based on the current news cycles but we could have used a little more origin story to make this a truly scary affair.