The First Purge
Director: Gerard McMurray
Writers: James DeMonaco
Cast: Y’Lan Noel, Lex Scott Davis, Joivan Wade, Luna Lauren Velez, Marisa Tomei
Studio: Universal Pictures
Rated R | 97 Minutes
Release Date: July 4, 2018
It’s funny how current events can influence a film. Okay, maybe not now. Especially not now considering what is happening to this world. But somehow The Purge film franchise has been able to sustain itself by using socioeconomics as a narrative device. For three films we have seen the dangers of what could happen if, for one night, all crime, including murder, was legal. It’s the kind of satirization that is so shocking it’s on the verge of becoming real. Each film took a different perspective of the privileged and disenfranchised trying to survive a night where no one would be punished for their crimes. Although it was fictional, it was hard to ignore some of the parallels the film had with today’s society. Some might say the film wasn’t too far off foreseeing what will happen.
But now we live in a different time, and The First Purge takes a look at the beginning and how it all started. The funny thing is, this new installment draws so much inspiration from the previous 18 months that it is simultaneously scary and funny, all the while continuing to being one of the most inclusive films to date by giving minorities and people of color some of the most exciting action sequences. Check out my full review of The First Purge here below.
The First Purge takes place in a dystopian future of an alternate the United States of America, where the stocks and employment are at an all-time low, crime is at an all-time high, and the world is wrought with overpopulation. As Democrats and Republicans are unable to find a solution to any of these problems, the New Founding Fathers of America are emerging as the new political power that guide the country to a new direction. Their rhetoric, however, is radical and dangerous. And to be sure that they follow through on their promise, they will implement an experiment, one that could change the course of America’s future, for the worse.
They will use Staten Island as a proving ground for their experiment called The Purge, a night where all crime, including murder, is legal. They are targeting to test a theory that if these criminals are able to vent out their frustration, anger, and hostility towards each other, they will be able to bring down crime. It’s a theory that divides the community, with those who are unable to make a living signing up for the experiment, while others who don’t believe in the event looking for ways off the island or finding a place to bunker down.
Nya (Lex Scott Davis) chooses to stay on the island not to participate but help comfort those who may not be able to afford to escape and protect those who are unable to do so. Her brother, Isaiah (Joivan Wade), who wants to help the family stay afloat, also stays, but to participate so that he can earn $5,000 and get revenge on the neighborhood creep. Then there is Dmitri (Y’lan Noel), the town gang leader with a heart of gold, who also chooses to stay to protect his members – he treats his loyal members as family – and his product. And Dmitri’s past with Nya will force all three to stay close if they want to survive the bloodbath.
Little do these three know that the experiment will be manipulated in a number of ways. See, the NFFA are adding their own variables to ensure that if they do not get the desired result, they will have some time to prove that The Purge works.
Noel and Davis are the clear standouts of this film. Dmitri is this gangster who has accepted his role in society but will do anything to protect those who he considers family. This includes fellow members, all of whom respect him, and his former girlfriend, Nya. Though this film may include a lot of shootouts, it’s not without its fight sequences, some of which may be considered Noel’s audition for a supporting character or villain in a major superhero film. Meanwhile, Nya is the clear voice of reason. And that’s what makes this franchise so great. It has given those who have been disenfranchised lead roles. The kind of roles that matter and not pander to some sort of token role.
Going into a film like The First Purge you know what you are going to get: The rich and privileged justifying their reasons for conducting The Purge as if it was some sort of crime deterrent. Then there is the lower class community who feel that they could kill because the government has wronged and that they have become disenfranchised. I’m not going to pretend that the latter does not have an argument. Seeing what is going on now, it’s hard to disagree. But there are those like Nya, who are more optimistic about their situation and have chosen a different path, one that doesn’t need aggression. But as the film gets into the seriousness of socioeconomics, it does an about face and goes for some really shocking moments. These moments can be perceived as funny, both intentionally and unintentionally.
See The First Purge draws from a lot of what happened from 2016 and current day. There are just some moments where the film really goes there, and a lot of them are obvious nods to what is happening now. They include moments where Nya kicks a purger for grabbing her crotch – a jab at President Donald Trump’s Access Hollywood tape; white police purgers are beating an unarmed African-American man on a baseball field – which is an all-too-real shocking recurrence; and Russians who “hacked” their way inside the experiment. Why, this film is one healthcare problem away from being a complete reflection of our current society. A lot of these moments help push the movie forward, with each of them getting bolder, which gives way for another appalling moment.
That’s not without its flaws. Sometimes these moments garner the right reaction. Other times, it may get the wrong one. And there will undeniably be eye-rolling going on. Again, a lot of that has to do with the fact that the movie is a scary reflection of current events. Sometimes the things that happen are so shocking you would laugh in disbelief. Other times, you need an outlet to release all that anger. Why it’s almost as if they were inspired by a certain someone who uses disgustingly hateful rhetoric to deliberately divide this country and use it as a means to make it “great.” And because this is a Michael Bay-produced film, there are some typical Bay moments that, of course, use racial stereotypes beyond its fullest.
Sure, some of these characters make questionable decisions. No twisted horror film has characters making actual logical well-thought-out decisions. So it comes with the territory. But part of the reason why they make such poor decisions is because of their predicament. They are living near the poverty line and they are seeking anything just to keep the water flowing and the bugs out. All of that gives us a reason to sympathize with them, while the NFFA gives us all the reasons to feel indifferent towards them.
This is perhaps one of the most perplexing entries in the Purge franchise. There are some things that are happening that seem all too real. These moments may garner a laugh in disbelief or a gasp that the film actually had to balls to put whatever it is on the big screen. Perhaps what is so unnerving about this prequel is that it is aware of what’s going on in this side of the world. In fact, it adds an extra layer of meta-ness by having its own characters be confused about everything that is happening in the film. But as long as there is political strife, The Purge franchise will continue to survive.