With growing fears that the world is entering into a new Cold War and Donald Trump roaming the halls of the White House, the ideas presented in The Purge feel more relevant and timely than ever. But where The First Purge could easily have been just another rehash of the 2013 original (much like Anarchy and Election Year), they’ve attempted to sidestep some of the audience fatigue by delving into how “Purge Night” – the one night a year where all crime, including murder, is legalised – came to be an annual occurrence.
However, rather than offering us insight into how the “New Founding Fathers of America” and their annual purge of the poor rose to power, what we’re given is instead a slightly slapdash psychological explanation that doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know already. In fact, The First Purge explores less of the psychology behind the annual slaughter sessions than the previous films, with Marisa Tomei’s Dr Updale doing little more than bleat out “Murder Equals Catharsis” for the majority of her lacking screen time. But then, we already knew that.
And this is where the film falls down. Rather than injecting the usual healthy dosage of contempt in the direction of privileged lawmakers, the political commentary here feels perhaps a little too heavy-handed. Unfortunately, it’s become less satire, and more of a personal attack on Trump as our female lead fights off her “pussy-grabbing” assailants.
Sadly, just as it reaches the precipice of social significance, it feels like The Purge franchise may have run its course. If you’re here to understand the origins of Purge Night, then you’ll be sorely disappointed – but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stick around for the third act’s characteristically incessant violence. If that’s what you’re into.
CAST: Y’lan Noel, Lex Scott Davis, Joivan Wade
DIRECTOR: Gerard McMurray
WRITER: James DeMonaco
SYNOPSIS: After the rise of a third political party, the New Founding Fathers of America, an experiment is conducted – no laws for 12 hours on Staten Island.