‘The First Purge’ this is the fourth entry in the franchise and like the Hollywood trend these days, this one is going the prequel route to show us how the very first Purge came to be. Admittedly, I didn’t have a ton of expectation for this one. I do enjoy the films, but they don’t move the needle much for me. The first movie was a fun home-invasion thriller that more so referenced the elements of the Purge to set up the singular plot, as opposed to exploring them. Which did leave me wanting to know more about this backdrop.
The political angles this franchise has used to build its world have become more and more up-front as each film passes. Continuing into this one as it breaks down the current political landscape of the story in building the foundations for this test-run of the Purge on Staten Island. The political, and social undertones are much more on the surface in this story-line, and it will rub some people the wrong way.
But if you can separate art from subject matter and differentiate real-world issues from a work of reality-based fiction, then I think the ability immerse yourself and have an appreciation for this fictional world is much greater. The fact that many instances may play on several parallels in our current society is for your own interpretation. Based on your individual values and who you view as being the antagonists in this story.
I enjoyed how the script developed the foundations of the Purge from both the execution of it, as well as the reasoning behind what at the time, was considered a ‘social experiment.’ It doesn’t spend too much time doing so, but still is able to deliver a solid set-up for this annual tradition so the story can get going quickly. It grabbed my attention and had my curiosity throughout despite following a familiar formula. It was able to plug in gaps of information for not just the Purge itself, but for some other tropes that have become known in the franchise as well which I found enjoyable.
It doesn’t really spend much time developing the characters, and what we do get is on the generic side. But I felt with how they are worked into the story, you get more than enough substance to want to see how the movie will end for them. Or in the least, be mildly curious how it will close out and who will make it. It adds some nicely choreographed action-sequences that built legitimate suspense. There were strong moments of tension woven into the flow of the story that hit with intensity. There were also some nicely timed doses of comic-relief to give the story overall a good balance of elements that kept me entertained.
I will admit the movie does feel very much like the last two, but it was still a good time. The cast was overall was more than serviceable. There were some moments of overacting, but there were also some moments of sub-par dialogue that didn’t give them much to work with at times. However there was effort from everyone to create some grounded characters you can invest in. That makes you want to see them work their way through the first night of the Purge as they maneuver through the twists and turns of the story.
Y’lan Noel and Lex Scott Davis were both more than capable leads. Their character-types are ones we have seen many times. But they poured some energy into the roles to elevate the material. Noel was fantastic in the action-sequences and I cannot wait to see more of him in the future. Davis was able hit some emotional beats with authenticity even though the dialogue didn’t do her many favors, and I enjoyed their chemistry together.
The main positive about this movie was the fast pace and the variety of the story elements. On the downside, it does feel recycled once things get going. It also has some lapses in the dialogue and in the character development. But what it does provide was more than enough for a fun action-thriller about legalized crime for twelve-hours. It isn’t intricate, and doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but does it really need to? The franchise has created a hyper-realistic world with plenty of story opportunities to work with inside that sandbox. In this one the creativity was delivered much more through the violence and the suspense once the foundations of the Purge are crafted and things progress. The direction and cinematography work together to create a gritty film that at times delivers some artistic visuals as the blood spills, and the bullets fly.
The fight-sequences were adrenaline pumping. The shoot-outs were tense and gritty. The suspense for the most part felt genuine. The violence was raw, and the jump-scares were relatively fun. For me this was an entertaining turn-your-brain-off movie that had me interested and engaged in what was happening. I think that to create unique story, you often must create a new world for it. Not every story can be set in a post-apocalyptic landscape, or a near-future dystopian sci-fi backdrop. There are many levels in between those and the world we live in, and I think the ‘Purge’ franchise has found a nice place for itself somewhere in the middle.