Movie Review: THE FIRST PURGE (2018)

THE FIRST PURGE, directed by Gerard McMurray (Burning Sands), is the latest chapter in the highly popular Purge franchise from Blumhouse Productions. This film takes place prior to 2013’s The Purge and follows the events leading up to the very first Purge. The film stars Y’lan Noel (Insecure), Lex Scott Davis (Superfly), Joivan Wade (Doctor Who), Mugga (Precious), Patch Darragh (Everything Sucks) and Marisa Tomei (The Big Short).

With crime and over-population at an all-time high, the New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA) decide to take measure into their own hand and test a sociological theory created by Dr. Updale (Tomei), which would allow all crime to be legal for 12 hours. Setting their sites on lower income minorities, the NFFA promises $5,000 to those willing to participate in The Experiment which is scheduled to take place on Staten Island. With the whole world watching, The Experiment, otherwise known as the Purge, begins commencement with the hope that this will help with the reduction in crime. However, when the true nature of the Purge is revealed, the community comes together to fight for the greater good against an organized establishment hell-bent on terminating the lower-class.

The Purge films have always been an interesting franchise to me. I have always loved the concept, as well as the discussion that it brings about; however, for whatever reason, I have never thought the concept has translated well onto the big screen. Going into THE FIRST PURGE, I had very little expectations as I thought it would just be a rehashing of what we have seen in the previous films, and to a point it is, but this film has a much deeper message at play. It’s not just a horror/thriller flick that we can shrug off, instead it’s more of a sociopolitical commentary on the current state of America, which to be honest, is quite terrifying.

This is one of those films that is going to upset a lot of people and I’m 100% here for it. THE FIRST PURGE doesn’t shy away from what it is, in fact, it brazenly puts itself out there without apology and I applaud them for that. It takes a stand and it showcases the awful treatment that society inflict upon minorities and those they deem unworthy through their own misplaced judgments. As powerful as I think that is, there are going to be quite a few groups that will not appreciate it. Previous Purge films rode a fine line of not being overtly obvious in their intentions, allowing us to fill in the blanks with our imagination; however, THE FIRST PURGEhas completely washed away that gray area completely, instead forming two very distinct, albeit opposing, sides.

The breakout star of the film is by and far Y’lan Noel who plays Dmitir, a well-known drug lord in the area where The Experiment is taking place. I love a good anti-hero, a character that is filled with flaws but deep down knows they are capable of doing good, and Dmitri encompasses that in full. Theoretically, we shouldn’t be rooting for him, but when shit hits the fan, and the government starts being shady as fuck, Dmitri is the one that sacrifices himself and his people for the good of the community. Here is a man who has done a lot of down and dirty shit, murdered numerous people, has supplied addicts with enough drugs to keep them perpetually high, yet he’s the man that comes through during this time of need. I can see all the conservative white men and women clutching their pearls in horror and honestly, they should, because at the end of the day, Dmitri shows them up by doing more than most people would ever consider doing for not only their loved ones, but for their community.

Overall, THE FIRST PURGE is easily my favorite of the series. It’s not perfect, nor did I expect it to be, and it still leaves me with a lot of questions, but it does a tremendous job in showcasing the similarities between Trump’s America and that which is in the film. It’s going to push a lot of buttons, but my hope is that it’ll start a conversation for the better. In the end, there is a message of hope and of fighting for what’s right, and though we know what ends up happening with the Purge, it doesn’t mean that those below the line of middle-class America have given up. At the end of the day, it’s a reminder that we, as a whole, far outweigh the people in power and though they may try to eradicate us, they can’t get rid of us all. And honestly, what better message could we hope for this 4th of July? THE FIRST PURGE arrives in theaters this Friday, July 6, 2018.

Shannon McGrew
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