A newly elected American political party tests
out a 12-hour lawless experiment on Staten Island.
The First Purge (2018)
Directed by Gerard McMurray
Written by James DeMonaco
Starring Y'lan Noel, Lex Scott Davis, Joivan Wade, Mugga, Patch Darragh, Marisa Tomei, Rotimi Paul, Mo McRae, Luna Lauren Velez
Prequel to 2013's The Purge
Prequels are hard to pull off. Sometimes you get an X-Men: First Class, but most of the times you get an X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Some questions don't need to be answered, and prequels can take away a lot of a film's mystique by providing less than satisfying explanations for questions we weren't even asking. Sometimes, you get one that sneaks by, but just barely. That's where I would place The First Purge. I was hoping at least part of the film would be a political drama that explored how the New Founding Fathers of America came into power. Instead, we start right at the beginning of the Purge experiment. If it wasn't for the interesting characters, this one wouldn't be nearly as good as the previous entries in the franchise.
The year is 2016 (if my math is correct), and the NFFA now rule the United States. In an effort to reduce poverty, balance the budget, and (let's be honest) exterminate minorities, the party tests out a revolutionary idea on Staten Island. Twelve hours of legal crime, zero consequences. When people are hesitant to suddenly become bloodthirsty psychos, the government sends militias in to gun down civilians and fudge the participation numbers, thus starting a tradition of publicly sanctioned government murder for years to come. Our hero is a murderous crime boss named Dmitri (Noel), who is hard to root for at first. But when the worse guys arrive, he steps up.
The First Purge isn't nearly as bad as I expected. Sure, it's political commentary is a bit more on the nose than the previous films. Our heroine Nya (Davis) fights off a rapist and calls him a "pussy grabber," for instance. But political commentary in this franchise doesn't bother me, because the franchise has never tried to hide it. The Purge films directly reflect the worst aspects of our society amplified to an insane degree. Each film targets a different side of that society. The first one was the rich. The second was the poor. The third was the politicians. And this one was the gangs.