Once again, it’s time for the annual purge to commence (even though the films come out bi-annually). I can’t say I have been a big fan of this franchise. The first film was a complete miss, taking an intriguing premise and instead having the whole thing take place in a single location. The follow-up, “Anarchy” not only corrected the first film’s mistakes, but it also delivered on what the premise promised. It was also a great deal of fun. Unfortunately, the third film, “Election Year” delivered some cool looking masks, but lacked the fun of “Anarchy”. Now we come to “The First Purge”, a prequel which explains the origins of the annual purge and even though it is better than “Election Year”, it just feels like more of the same.
In-order-to push the crime rate to below 1% for the rest of the year, the new political US leaders, known as the NFAA (Founding Fathers of America) run an experiment in Staten Island, New York, in which all crime (including murder) is legal for 12 hours. To get residents to participate in the experiment, they are offered $5000 each to not leave Staten Island and will earn a bonus if they go out and purge. During those 12 hours the rest of the country will monitor the experiment via the news.
Many residents are against this experiment, including activist, Nya (Lex Scott Davis) who sees how terrible this whole thing is. She is also worried for her younger brother Isaiah (Joivan Wade), who is already going down a sketchy path. Nya’s ex-boyfriend/drug dealer Dmitri (Y’lan Noel) is also not a fan of the experiment, but for more selfish reasons.
When the experiment doesn’t go as its’ architect, Dr. Updale (Marisa Tomei) predicted and people are partying instead of purging, the NFAA sends in mercenaries dressed as gangs to start killing the locals. This is to help insure the experiment is seen as a success to the rest of the country.
Rotimi Paul who plays a purging psychotic drug addict named Skeletor is easily the best part of “The First Purge”. He is completely deranged and at times quite terrifying. He is the only part of the film that feels fresh and Paul looks like he is relishing the role. Noel and Davis are also good, but Paul is the true stand-out. I just wish “The First Purge” was able to get a bit more creative with the actual purging.
By: Marc Ferman