I reviewed The Purge: Election Year around this time, two years ago. A lifetime ago. In my review I discuss the upcoming election, the fact the NFFA (New Founding Fathers of America) represent Donald Trump and how the film ‘involves corrupt and unbelievable characters, endless/unexpected/ludicrous plot twists, extreme conservatism and an ominous sense of prickling terror’. How wrong/right I was…
We’re now in the summer of 2018. Trump is the man with the red button in one hand and his phone open on Twitter in the other. It’s now we get given a prequel to The Purge, an insight of how they got there. The NFFA has recently been elected to presidency (warm), the new president is making outrageous claims (getting warmer) and the supremist powers that be have decided to trial something audacious/immoral to cement their legacy (there we go!).
The plan is to conduct a trial sociological experiment – The First Purge – by taking over Staten Island. For one night only there are no laws and no crime is too severe. To encourage maximum participation the NFFA are offering financial incentives. Stay on the island and you get $5,000. Participate and purge out your anger, pain and rage to get commission. The trial area was picked as it’s a community marginalised and forgotten by society; made up of individuals for whom $5,000 would be life changing. But when more parties than violence occurs, the NFFAA take matters into their own hands.
Everyone loves a good allegory. That’s the true power of cinema; acting as a mirror to our society. Except when it’s as heavy-handed and badly written as it is here. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again – the concept of the purge is solid. It’s more than solid in fact, it’s unsettling and unnerving at an ever-increasing rate. Each decision our current leader of the free world makes feels like a step closer to a Purge-esqeue dystopia. And yet the franchise has been unable to fully tap into this potential as it instead decides to bludgeon and hammer it home instead.
Ascribing it with the status of B-movie would be far too generous as it’s so po-faced as it continuously delivers unrelenting over-the-top violence. From the outset things are hyped up to the max; a continuous orgy of gun violence that gets boring and stalemate far too quickly. This time around the action isn’t even broken up with horror segments – the jump scares are comparatively few & far between. That felt like the films signifier; the thing that made it a bit different. Instead we see people, both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ commit unending acts of atrocious and detached violence.
The fact such mind-numbing action is accompanied by dialogue that induces the biggest of cringes and laughing at the film rather than with it only makes matters worse. Lines like ‘Pussy grabbing motherfucker’ is meant to be funny and did generate quite a few laughs. Unmemorable exposition disguised as dialogue is not. Such is the extent that it almost feels like The Purge franchise has stumbled into a semblance of relevance rather than intentional and actual social commentary.
Dir: Gerard McMurray
Scr: James DeMonaco
Cast: Y’lan Noel, Lex Scott Davis, Joivan Wadde, Mugga, Marisa Tomei
Prd: Michael Bay, Jason Blum, Andrew Form, Brad Fuller, Sebastian K. Lemercier
DOP: Anastas N. Michos
Music: Kevin Lax
Runtime: 97 mins
The First Purge is in cinemas now.