The First Purge finds outspoken community activist, Nya (Lex Scott Davis) thrown into the middle of the chaos when her younger brother, Isaiah (Joivan Wade) opts to participate in the inaugural edition of what will soon become an annual affair.
The Purge series isn’t afraid to showcase the ugly side of human nature and it reminds us that sometimes, the most terrifying monsters are human. As the name implies, the latest installment in The Purge series takes a look at the first Purge. It gives viewers a glimpse into the origination of The Purge, how it came to be, and at exactly what cost. This is a perhaps the most politically conscious entry in what has become known as a politically-charged series. This film pulls no punches and isn’t afraid to call out systemic racism or deep seated corruption.
The First Purge is a topical film that showcases the tendency of smooth-talking politicians to prey upon the impoverished and marginalized for the gain of the elite–often even managing to get citizens to vote against their own self interests. It taps into the current climate of political corruption and offers a look at where our society could be headed if things continue on their current trajectory.
Speaking of the current state of affairs in Washington, there’s a noteworthy reference to the current administration with the Nya shouting “P***y Grabbin’ Mother F***er!” after narrowly fending off an unwelcome gesture at the (literal) hands of an unknown assailant.
As a comment on the state of political affairs in the US right now, The First Purge is on point. As for entertainment value, it’s a mixed bag. And much of the blame for that lies with series creator and screenwriter of all four installments, James DeMonaco. It feels a bit like DeMonaco put so much effort into making the film call out the problems with our political system that cultivating a script that was also entertaining took a backseat until the third act.
Patient viewers who are forgiving of the film’s pacing problems are rewarded with a fairly exciting showdown in the final fifteen minutes of the picture but that isn’t quite enough to make up for the fact that there’s very little action taking place prior to the denouement. It’s reasonable that the film is exposition heavy, it is a prequel, after all. But DeMonaco’s script simply waits too long to give fans of the franchise what they’re likely to be expecting at this point.
Given that he was working with a screenplay with some challenges, Gerard McMurray does a commendable job in his sophomore feature film directorial effort. He aids his cast in delivering memorable performances and he manages to make the most of the finale when it finally rolls around. In the denouement, the director is able to establish a sustained sense of tension that gives viewers a taste of that for which they have been thirsting. Even though it takes too long to get there, McMurray captivates his audience via a finale with well-choreographed action sequences and empowers his lead actress Lex Scott Davis to break out and show viewers that Nya is a multifaceted and capable female character worth cheering for.
The special features on the home video release include a couple of behind-the-scenes featurettes that don’t offer any profound revelations on the film but are worth a look if you’re a fan of the series. Also included is a deleted scene which was excised from the finished product. Not exactly a bonus content bonanza but not a bare bones release, either.
All in all, The First Purge worth watching once for the biting social commentary but I don’t necessarily see a lot of replay value in the latest installment in the series. It simply takes a little too long to get where it’s going and that ultimately works to the detriment of the film. The First Purge is now available on DVD, Blu-Ray, 4K, and DigitalHD.
For a different take on the picture, be sure to check out contributing editor Joey Keogh’s review from the film’s theatrical bow.
WICKED RATING: 5.5/10
Director(s): Gerard McMurray
Writer(s): James DeMonaco
Stars: Lex Scott Davis, Y’lan Noel, and Joivan Wade
Release: October 2, 2018 (DVD and Blu)
Studio/ Production Co: Blumhouse, Universal
Budget: $13 Million (Estimated)
Sub-Genre: Politically Charged Horror