The First Purge (R)

Action/Adventure 99 min. July 4, 2018
By Bilge Ebiri
And you thought the last Purge movie was blunt. Released in the summer of 2016 to a nation only beginning to grasp how utterly doomed it was, The Purge: Election Year, the third entry in the series, gave us the spectacle of a bunch of bloodthirsty male politicians desperately trying to cling to power by trying to destroy a progressive female presidential candidate. Now, The First Purge -- a prequel though it may be -- takes things even further. It gives us armed gangs of psychos dressed in Klan robes and Nazi overcoats and cop uniforms and (of course) white supremacist khakis, all descending on poor neighborhoods hoping to kill as many black and Hispanic people as they can. Oh, and some of these bad guys speak Russian, too.

This time, we jump back a few years in the chronology to see the original Purge Night, presented as a social experiment confined solely to Staten Island, New York, with the eyes of the entire nation watching to see if the program’s promise of “societal catharsis” will have the desired effects of renewing the American ideal and mollifying unrest.

The First Purge is the least subtle one yet, and the one most focused on race. As a result, there’s an urgency and an anger this time around that helps paper over some of the story’s messiness, as well as some of the awkward drama of trying to explain where this whole crazy Purge idea actually came from. The new film delivers a jolt of energy to this franchise -- much needed after the tired and awkward The Purge: Election Year, which at the time felt like the idea had run its course.
Gerard McMurray Y'Lan Noel, Lex Scott Davis, Joivan Wade, Luna Lauren Velez, Lex Scott Davis, Marisa Tomei James DeMonaco Universal Pictures

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