The First Purge Review

Let’s talk about The First Purge.

The Purge series has always been interesting to me. Not because it’s ever been really good, it’s been often entertaining but never anything more than good, but because it’s had a willingness to expand it’s world and lore. This all started as a cheap horror flick where Ethan Hawke had to protect his family from some murderers and it’s now a politically motivated thriller about fascistic governments trying to take out the lower classes. We’ve had a movie about people turning against the Purge, one about a politician trying to end the Purge and now we have the prequel about how The Purge was started.

As hinted in previous movies, we discover that due to unhappiness with the main parties, a third party called the New Founding Fathers rise and become the President. And they decide to trial a legalised day of crime in Staten Island to see if that reduces crime the rest of the year.

Yes we know that’s a daft idea but you have go along with some silliness if you want to enjoy these movies. If you’ve seen any of the previous movies you’ll know that. There is still this weird contrast between the silliness and seriousness though. You have this dark gritty movie about people trying to survive the state sponsored murder night and then you have Skeletor. Not to be confused with the GI Joe villain, this is a resident of Staten Island who is certified insane and decides that The Purge is a time for him to go insane and just murder everyone he sees. This could be terrifying if the actor, Rotimi Paul, was trying to be menacing. Instead, he’s decided to eat all the scenery he can. It’s certainly an entertaining performance to watch, you can’t really pay any attention to anything else when he’s on screen, but it’s a complete contrast to everything else. This is pretty much a Purge staple at this point though. Remember the teenage girl that went all murder mad because she failed to steal a candy bar?

The movie plays around with a few new ideas. You might think that the fact it’s a small area would be the biggest change but no, that doesn’t really play into it. People don’t try to escape Staten Island for some reason, I know some are getting paid to stay but many haven’t, and it works much the same as other Purge movies. But we’ll get to that. The new idea is that we get a closer look at the NFFA as they try to get the Purge going. So we see their inner machinery and workings which is interesting in it’s own way. It’s nothing you wouldn’t expect, it’s fairly basic political commentary, but it does provide a nice change of pace from the dark streets of Staten Island where everyone is dying. I am disappointed in one of the revelations made because it makes the series as a whole a bit duller and less interesting but I think you can make arguments against it.

So I can say that this movie was fairly good and I was enjoying it. But as two of the main characters were hiding in the dark as other people killed each other, something clicked. Despite there being different subject matter, this is the same movie as the last two Purge movies. Not the first Purge movie, that one stands out as the most unique because it was a home invasion movie, but the last two which followed a similar pattern. Normal people get caught out in the open and have to some how avoid all the nutters until the Purge ends the following morning. And yes, all three movies have different themes which stop them being too repetitive but I’ll admit, once I realised I was watching people run around in the dark again I got bored.

The First Purge is still entertaining despite that, it’s far better than any fourth movie in a franchise has any right to be, because you can feel there is some creativity behind it and that this is an idea the team behind obviously love. But there has to be changes going into the next movie. No more running around in the dark. We’ve had three movies of it. Do something new, find a new twist to it. And if you can’t, just end it.

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A Guy Who Talks About Movies

Former Head of Movies for Screen Critics. Film Reviews now hosted on Medium.