When dystopian action horror film The Purge first came out in 2013, it inspired debate and discussion on topics such as the death penalty, the justice system, racial and socioeconomical inequality et cetera.
Beyond the political landscape, it also inspired many reflexions on the philosophy of human rage and individual issues creating the need to release aggression and purge oneself emotionally.
The movie was well received, which led to the release of several sequels and a prequel called The First Purge (2018).
While I’ve enjoyed the Purge franchise so far, I would strongly recommend you to avoid wasting your time on this prequel at all cost – The First Purge is complete garbage in any sense of what a movie should be.
Origins movies and prequels have been executed both very well and disastrously, so there was no knowing of whether this prequel does its predecessors justice. In this case, how the idea of something as radical a purge was even conceived, and what the political and social repercussions of such an idea would be both for the originators and the participants is a rather interesting question and does inspire a prequel.
Sadly, the depth of said socioeconomical and political nuances in this movie is nil. The purge is cloaked as a “bad politician wants to kill poor people” plot, and when the first kill seems to remain the only one, the purging is incouraged by militia and killers for hire. Why or how the original idea came to fruition, how it was lobbied as far as to take place and how the location was determined are questions vaguely answered with no depth in the dialogue between the responsible parties.
If the plot is shallow and the reasoning behind events is unsatisfactory, then surely individual characters could save the movie and the sociocritical stance of the franchise. There is an important message to be communicated, after all.
Instead, all the audience is given in terms of actual contents are a half-assed mention of two protagonists having had a relationship at one point, and two of the characters being related to one another. Beyond those two scraps of storyline, there are: no actual storylines or logically connected moments, no character dynamics, no individual development, no opportunity for an emotional investment and only one-dimensional background information about a handful of the characters.
Who the hell wrote this movie? (Yes and thank you, Google. This is a rhetorical question/ exclamation of rage/ gasp of despair.)
Of course the genre has to be taken into account for a just review, and because the Purge franchise is dystopian action horror, I could live with some decent splatter moments and a couple hundred flying bullets. But neither the killing nor the fighting is done decently.
The movie lacks the violent edge, the bloody visuals and the scary moments of suspense to achieve even D-grade horror movie status. It is dystopian by definition alone but also lacks the intellectual depth to be considered as memorable or interesting in that sense.
Lastly, the action scenes are plain ridiculous and have nothing remotely watchable about them – except for the sheer entertainment of the badness and absurdity of it all. Not only do action scenes have no build-up, no choreography and no plot within them – as the movie goes on, less attention is paid to even the most ridiculously obvious things. While there might be some luck involved in a shooting and in close combat, you cannot simply ignore gravity, physics, anatomy and logic and expect to get away with that.
The most tragic aspect of it all is that while several nods to recent and historical events quite clearly exist inside this movie and seem to want to carry an importance, their cultural impact and socioeconomical weight are diminished wholly by how bad the plot, dialogue, flow and visuals of The First Purge are.
It doesn’t make any sense to how anyone would write or direct something so drastic and politically loaded with so much potential to the discourse, and to screw it up not only in marginal areas but in every possible aspect.
How is it possible to screw up so royally on so many levels with a movie centering on topics and conversations so crucial and so prominent in the current political climate? That is completely beyond me.
Because I cannot take this seriously as a movie of any genre, the potential significance of this movie – which is still extractable in its core (as Keith Phipps remarkably did in his review) – is lost amongst the cringeworthy dialogues, fight scenes and plot holes.
Unfortunately, there are really no redeeming moments or qualities to emphasize. The First Purge is simply and solely bad. While I would still recommend watching other movies in this franchise, I as strongly advise against this shit show.
What did you think of this movie and of the Purge franchise?
Would you watch another Purge movie?
Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!