Oh geesh, and I thought we were done with this.
Alright, so straight up… I didn’t like THE PURGE (2013). Not the worst movie, obviously, but it just sort of seemed like a standard slasher film against a backdrop that we barely get to see. It failed in delivering its own set up. I mean, an entire country that does away with crime for an entire night? That sounds like some sick awesomeness. Instead, what we get is a boring series of threats with very little happening. Hey, I love me some Lena Heady and Ethan Hawke as much as the next dude, but even they barely saved the movie from me.
THE PURGE: ANARCHY (2014) was what I was expecting out of this idea. An entire city in bloody chaos, it was something that one would see out of a post-apocalyptic setting and it was pretty awesome, if I remember correctly. At the very least, I look back on it with more satisfaction than I do for the first movie.
If you want to know what I thought about the third movie, you can click the following link: THE PURGE: ELECTION YEAR (2016). Summed up, I remember really liking the actors, but still didn’t think that highly of the movie itself. Although, I did think it was funny that it was coming out at around the same time the election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton was in full swing.
The story here looks like it’s about how and why The Purge got started. It almost looks like it’s not working, but the government secretly interferes to get people on board with this future tradition.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Marisa Tomei (SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING , CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR , THE BIG SHORT , and upcoming films BEHOLD MY HEART  and SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME ), Lex Scott Davis (SUPERFLY , and the upcoming FOSTER BOY ), Y’lan Noel (stuff I’ve not seen or heard of), Patch Durragh (SULLY ), and Melonie Diaz (GRINGO  and THE BELKO EXPERIMENT ).
Now for the crew. Directing, we have Gerard McMurray, known for stuff I’ve not seen or heard of. Penning the screenplay is James DeMonoco, known for THE PURGE 3, and upcoming film ONCE UPON A TIME IN STATEN ISLAND (2019) and TV pilot THE PURGE (2018). Composing the score is Kevin Lax, known for stuff I’ve not seen or heard of, an the upcoming JUANITA (2018). The cinematographer is Anastas N. Michos, known for stuff I’ve not seen or heard of. Finally, the editor is Jim Page, known for XXX 3 (2017) and SECRET IN THEIR EYES (2015).
Overall, I’m not expecting anything good. But… I do love me some Marisa Tomei, so I have her to look forward to. Beyond that… meh. This is likely going to in one ear and out the other.
This is my honest opinion of: THE FIRST PURGE
Set in Staten Island, New York, before the events of THE PURGE. The New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA) have begin a social experiment: permitting crime to be legal for one night and leave the island clear of crime for the remaining year, all orchestrated by Doctor May Updale (Marisa Tomei). While more than a few citizens sign up for the promise of monetary gain by the NFFA, more than a few others rally to protest the experiment, chief among them being young Nya (Lex Scott Davis), who is trying to take care of her little brother Isaiah (Joivan Wade), who also wants in on the experiment to get back at a local psychopath who is way too enthusiastic about purging, calling himself Skeletor (Rotimi Paul). When the time comes, the experiment isn’t starting off as successful as Dr. Updale and Chief of Staff Arlo Sabian (Patch Durragh) has hoped. But it isn’t long before new, well-armed gangs start making an appearance and causing the chaos that the NFFA needs.
I love how the poster below features purgers that don’t actually purge in this movie. Cute visual, marketing department, but not exactly relevant.
Anyway, meh, unlike the rest of the audience I was watching this with, I wasn’t impressed.
The primary problem with the movie is that it’s boring. It takes forever getting to the actual purging. In theory, the reasons why aren’t bad in of themselves. They’re establishing the characters that we’re following, which is needed for us to get invested. Here’s the problem that I had with the movie. They’re having us follow too many characters and nearly all of them are pretty two-dimensional. Nya is anti-experiment and she just wants to look after her brother. And that’s about it. Isaiah is a shy, nice guy but is tired of struggling. And that’s about it. Sabian is a dude way too enthusiastic about the experiment working. And that’s about it. Couldn’t tell you much about Selina (Kristen Solis) or her mom because they were barely characters at all. Sure, Dolores was a lot of fun, but that’s just because Mugga has charisma. And yes, Skeletor was delightfully over-the-top, but again, he’s just sort of a blunt instrument of death. Doesn’t mean either of the aforementioned characters are particularly fleshed out. The only two characters that seem to have some measure of depth to them are Dmitri (Y’lan Noel) and Updale. Dmitri may be a gangster and drug dealer, but he is anti-experiment, he does have this sense of protecting the community that he lives in, and has a protective nature toward Nya. And Updale, despite being the architect of what the chronological sequels will eventually become, she does seem like she’s coming from a place of progress, not blood-lust. Things were supposed to happen a certain way and were supposed to happen to all different kinds of people, not just the impoverished, like Sabian eventually demands. Taking a few notes from INFINITY WAR, eh, movie? ‘Cuz that was Thanos’ motivation. Anyway, not a strong cast of characters, despite hoping to see something good out of Davis. Not that she was bad, but there’s only so much good she can do with the amount she had to work with.
For a movie that’s supposed to be a lot more detailed about how and why the Purge began, this movie doesn’t do any better of a job than the first film did. According to the first film, the citizens of America needed to let off steam once a year to stabilize crime for the next 364 days. For one thing, bullshit. For two, that’s pretty much the only explanation here. Oh sure, they try to connect it to, like, the stock exchange, or the numerous lower class citizens that the government doesn’t want to pay for, but they’re all so loosely tied together that it barely affects anyone’s viewing of the previous films. It doesn’t add any special insight, or make you rethink the franchise in a different way. All this prequel really does is tell you who came up with the Purge (Updale), which I doubt anybody cared to ask, and possibly where the resistance fighters came from that were introduced in ANARCHY, which was something anyone could have guessed. They hate The Purge. Fight the NFFA directly. That’s something I understood four years ago. Didn’t need the origin story, believe it or not. So really, this movie is a pretty cynical cash-in on a popular-for-some-reason franchise, likely to earn some money for this upcoming TV show of theirs.
Even the violence is pretty tame. For a movie that showcases a psychopath who really wanted to partake in the experiment, there’s not a whole lot of creative, or gruesome deaths. And don’t give me no bullshit about “What about Dolores stabbing a dude a million times?!” because I’ve seen UPGRADE, yo. You want to know what I mean by “creative deaths” watch that. Also, the movie doesn’t even take advantage of its own ideas. Skeletor walks into a crowd of people for him to kill and what happens? Not nearly as much as it could have been. Sure, it’s kinda funny to see him dancing with a chick and then stab her like it’s part of the dance, but in a crowd of several dozen people, both Purgers and non-Purgers alike, his body count should have been much higher. So not only is the grotesque violence only slightly above a PG-13 rating, there’s not even an incredibly high body count.
There are only a few things I’ll give this movie credit for. One, there’s a visual distinction from the other films. Not the empty, dark, dystopic streets mind you, but rather the neon glowing contact lenses. I won’t pretend to know why they’re all different colors, but… it’s something. Not an amazing something, but… something. And I’ll say that I enjoyed some of the gun play in the third act, especially the stairway bits. Most of that action looked like it was done in one take. I mean, it’s no ATOMIC BLONDE, but one could argue it’s just as good as BOURNE IDENTITY (2002), maybe even better on a technical level since a lot of this is one shot.
Overall, this is a pretty pointless movie. It doesn’t answer any questions that needed to be answered. It’s just another Purge movie. I wager fans of the franchise will be satisfied, but I was pretty underwhelmed. No amazing performances, no delicious violence, a few good action moments toward the end, but nothing to really make this thing work as a whole. I say see this only if you are a fan. Casual movie-goers would be advised to pass on this one. It’s not dumpster fire, but it’s not good. A nation reborn, a franchise boring.
My honest rating for THE FIRST PURGE: a weak 3/5
This week’s reviews:
Next week’s reviews:
- HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 3: SUMMER VACATION
- SORRY TO BOTHER YOU
- EIGHTH GRADE
- DON’T WORRY, HE WON’T GET FAR ON FOOT
- A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM