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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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The Purge: Election Year (2016) Review

PG3_UncleSam1Sht_0518_1SM.0This is not a test. This is the commencement of the annual purge sanctioned by the U.S. Government. With Universal successfully coming off of the sequel with ‘The Purge: Anarchy‘ after a rocky start to the franchise, audiences bare witness to the next event. From the director who brought us the first two Purge films is James DeMonaco, who surprisingly has ¬†only directed four movies including this one. As America enters into election season, a Senator running for office threatens to suspend the annual tradition if elected as President. This catches the attention of the founding fathers as they set out to eliminate any threats that would bring an end to their agenda.

It’s not ironic that with an election coming up we’d see Universal take advantage by returning with their eye catching property ‘The Purge‘ while adding their own message to the mix. Frank Grillo returns for ‘The Purge: Election Year‘ and is Senator’s Charlie Roan’s ¬†(Elizabeth Mitchell) protector when the annual purge slowly approaches. Coming off the last film where Leo Barnes was going to go after the man responsible for the death of his son, returns here in a role where he too wants to see the purge come to an end. While the Senator is put in a safe house it soon is found out that it’s all a set up from the inside to kill the Senator. This sets both Leo and Roan on the run while danger awaits them on every corner.

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The first Purge movie was met with mostly negative responses and was in due part to the action taking place in one location. As a viewer we weren’t able to take in the concept which is that a country would for 12 hours see an event where all crime is legal; including murder, and the carnage that would follow. Later we’d see the sequel in 2014 where it made up for what lacking while also adding more to the founding fathers and why the purge was created. And with a standout performance by Frank Grillo as the Sergeant, he takes in survivors of the night while trying to lead them to safety. So it brings us to the third installment where it’s for all the marbles and the country’s soul is on the line.

Let’s start by saying that seeing Frank Grillo return was a great call and seeing him in this movie brought us back to how great he was in the last outing. He doesn’t stop a beat when insider’s turn bad and he has to escort Senator Roan to safety. This leads us to Elizabeth Michell’s performance as the Senator who believe it or not wasn’t a distraction. You were sold into her character who was running to end the violence and tradition that was only fueling the agenda’s of the elite. There are instances where people are uncertain of her true motives as she can be seen like all other politicians.

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It would be crazy for me not to deny there wasn’t a political tone to the movie when it comes to rich versus the poor and is how the tradition of the purge helps to eliminate a certain class. A more disturbing take was how we see tourists from other countries coming to participate in the purge. This brings to light the ongoing fight in today’s world where terrorism is arriving or showing up all over the world. But for the sake of the film it works to it’s benefit and shows how powerful a voice can be if one or not all takes action. Of the three films thus far, ‘The Purge: Election Year‘ is the most politically telling of them all and may leave you with mixed reactions.

As was the case with the last two films, ‘The Purge: Election Year‘ has it’s fair share of problems. The concept still has holes that it can’t manage to overcome considering the scale of such an event. No matter how hard the movie tries focusing on the political aspects of the event, it ends up cheating itself from being a more thought provoking idea. The violence is surprisingly little, yet we see a lot of blood and death if that were to make any sense. There’s plenty of ammunition to be spent here and is what we see most of. In the end, it struggles between being a horror film or an all out action feature. One last thing I’ll say is that in the last films we’d see a time frame of the purge taking place. In this one the movie doesn’t place too much attention to how much time has passed from once the purge starts to when it ends. Though it may not make a difference it does feel absent and leaves you wondering why that decision was made.

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With that said, the ending does leave with potential for another sequel and will ultimately depend on the returns at the box office. The production budget for this movie was $10 million* so it can easily make a profit. As Universal and Blumhouse productions continue with a winning track record, it’s safe to say their trilogy is a success. And when I mean success, it’s in regards to the concept that is the purge and how it caught the attention of movie-goers since its inception in 2013. Give it to Director James DeMonaco as he not only made a franchise but also isn’t shy in making a statement as well.

Rating: 6.8/10

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Source: Box Office Mojo

Do you plan on watching ‘The Purge: Election Year‘? What do you think of the franchise? Comment below and share your thoughts.