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The First Purge (2018) Review

Published by: Anthony Wallace


the first purgeIt’s the one night America gets to celebrate and unify as a nation. No it’s not the Fourth of July but a new tradition that sparked attention around the world, the Purge. After three films the franchise goes back to its roots and explores the origins of the night that changed the country forever. This marks the fourth entry in the series by Universal and stars Y’lan Noel, Lex Scott Davis, and Marisa Tomei. Will you survive the night?

The Purge franchise is unique in the sense that when it first arrived to audiences in 2013 it caught many people’s attention. Though it stumbled in execution the one thing it had going for it was the concept. It being that for one night a year, for 12 consecutive hours, citizens are allowed to commit any crime; including murder without penalty. The movie however cheated itself by staying confined within a home as a family fights off intruders and an un-welcomed guest. The sequel, Purge: Anarchy would take full advantage of what didn’t work for the first film and turned into a fun action thriller. Then finally, ‘Purge: Election Year‘ delved into the politics behind purge night and saw a battle for survival as an appointed candidate races to end the night of the purge. It leads us now to the origins of the purge and how this yearly tradition came to be.

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As a new party rises to power an experiment is introduced to showcase the benefits of American citizens acting out. With a monetary reward citizens of Staten Island are given the opportunity to participate in this controlled experiment. But as the night descends upon the island its citizens are in a fight for survival and the real motives behind the event begins to unravel.

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With anticipation I went into the movie with low expectations and the possibility of being let down. The marketing didn’t sell me completely as the trailer led me to believe it was a purge movie but also felt like it could be a street drama. And as one could expect my fears became reality as the movie was a little unbalanced. So much has been speculated regarding the New Founding Fathers of America and how the party rose to power; along with the idea behind the purge itself. What started out as promising very early on in the opening of the film it later descends into familiar territory. And that’s where it became a wasted opportunity.

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So much of the film is focused on character development and each of the story lines that it slows down the movie. If we had to compare films it would have to be that ‘Purge: Anarchy‘ did a much better job in managing three or four story arcs without sacrificing the pacing. The main focus in ‘The First Purge‘ should have been on the people behind the purge and not of the citizens of Staten Island. Because we have already been exposed to a purge night in the previous films it defeats the purpose in repeating a similar plot but with different purge victims. This answers my initial problem with the marketing of the movie and the trailer as it focuses a lot on the victims and not the origins aspect.

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Let’s focus now on the people behind the scenes as we’re introduced to the lead architect of the experiment, Dr. Updale (Marisa Tomei). When the movie focused on her character and the motive behind the purge as it was unfolding was fascinating. Unfortunately, the movie decides to do something at the mid-way point and it cheats the audience which to me wasn’t cool. Again, the focus is unbalanced and felt wasted when characters just suddenly disappear.

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By the films end the movie concludes the night of the purge with the survivors of the experiment. And to make matters worse the movie decides to forgo the aftermath as to enacting the purge as an annual event. However if you stay for the credits there is a quick snip it of how the purge is born. Again, the movie suffers from a wasted opportunity in focusing on the perpetrators behind the purge.

To rank ‘The First Purge‘ it would come 3rd or 4th in the series behind 2013’s ‘The Purge‘. The movie was such a disappointment and was foretelling in the trailer as already explained. It’s not to say there’s nothing to enjoy but you walk out of the movie wanting more. Maybe the television series will address the New Founding Fathers in more detail. As a fan of the franchise I would recommend to go watch because of the origins component. But for the general audience I would wait till it comes out on demand or DVD.

Rating: 6/10

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Are you planning on watching ‘The First Purge‘? How would you rank the films in the franchise? Comment below and share your thoughts.

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