The First Purge
The Purge series is an odd phenomenon; from watching the first two movies to seeing this one, I’m amazed at how this series has grown. How often does a movie property start out as a joke, then progressively improves with nearly every release? Enter in The First Purge, a movie that has provided a strong sense of action, commentary, and suspense.
The movie starts at a crucial time, with only a few days before the first purge we see how our protagonists are reacting to the situation. I thought the concept of visiting the first purge had potential. We were spared the backstory on how such an idea made it through Congress, but I assume no one wanted to dwell on it too long. The commentary focuses on those in the ghetto of Stanton island. Considering the previous movies, this was a different viewpoint from this universe.
The Government in this movie plays to everyone’s worst fear of what our government can be capable of. They have their own agendas and gains and the citizens will have to pay the price. The scientist who created the “experiment,” was strictly interested in the results. As we learn in the trailer, the government manipulates the results causing her to question the genocidal test… How about that! It’s almost like it was a bad idea! The female lead played by Lex Davis, was our moral anchor since nearly everyone around her had either questionable morals or none at all. Her past relationships also let us in on why she chose to live a more righteous life.
Part of that past life was an old flame in the form of a drug boss played by Y’Ian Noel. The fact that this guy is our supposed protagonist made it even more intriguing for me. The movie acknowledges that his drugs hurt the ghetto but because of his power and connections, he’s the only one who can stand up to the purge. Some have suggested that the movie attempts to downplay the weight of what drugs does to a community by having him be the “hero”. I disagree, it demonstrated many times that he is ruthless but like most people (no matter how evil) they have a limit, a weakness, or a vulnerability. We see in the movie that he hides this side because in most cases, his life depends on it. He is poison, but he stands against a greater poison, and despite his bad dealings you root for him. His character was easily the best part of the movie.
Unfortunately, there were some characters who I assume were from a different movie – no a different cartoon – but somehow managed to make it in this film. For example, a certain recurring antagonist is doing the hammiest, “oooh, he sure is CaWAy-ZEEEE” acting I’ve seen in ages. We also a comic relief character who did not fit in with all the surreal chaos.
The movie is talking about how those who feel pressed upon, feeling the press physically. The desperation, security, and peace of mind will often make people do the worst of things. On a personal level, this is why the mentality, “get money or die trying,” is often mistaken. The suspense is well infused between the moments of reflection and done well enough to not drag the movie down with either one. At times, even the movie gets a bit too heavy-handed with a central focus on black poverty, but it never became too distracting. To me, it’s about the absence of a limit or a line to not cross. Every evil deed in the movie is brought by some desire of peace whether it’s for themselves or others.
Movie Do Or Don’t?
DO! It is a fine addition to a series built upon this disturbing premise. The First Purge was thrilling and engaging until the very end. The racial themes may throw some off, and some may struggle with a contradicting male lead. I thought these all worked in its favor as we followed a morally questionable villain-turned-hero whether he deserved it or not. The movie deserves a chance for those who have also written the Purge movies off, if there was a time to get back into, it’s now.