The Tomei-led cast try with the flimsy, unbalanced, overpoliticized script their given and the govt interference/edge-on themes are cogent, but TFP is an overly-slow, uneventful slog with dull characterization, weak performances, and not enough of the stylized macabre of past Purges. 2.1/10.
Plot Synopsis: To push the crime rate below one percent for the rest of the year, the New Founding Fathers of America test a sociological theory that vents aggression for one night in one isolated community. But when the violence of oppressors meets the rage of the others, the contagion will explode from the trial-city borders and spread across the nation.
*Possible spoilers ahead*
Official CLC Review
This is not a test. This is your emergency broadcast system announcing the commencement of the Annual Purge, sanctioned by the U.S. Government. There are few announcements that instantly signify something wild is about to happen in a movie like that one does. The undeniably creative dystopian psychology experiment-turned-ultimate-‘haunted house’ event has seen a shaky past in translating the idea to the big screen, but usually delivers on that one promise: it is going to be a fast-paced, macabric mask-filled thrill ride/jump scare extravaganza as soon as that siren blares. And for movies like this (as long as you don’t come in absurdly expecting Oscar-level writing, acting, character development, etc.), that is all most fans need/want from guilty pleasure horror franchises like this and why the movies have been huge successes at least commercially/box office wise. Being even better marketed than the others with a timely MAGA/Trump-angle promising an epic prequel introduction, and having come off the last three that were at least passable cinema and undeniably entertaining, I thought TFP would be pretty good or at least give me a popcorn movie worth the ticket price. However, I was shocked to see that The First Purge is a slow, uneventful slog with even duller characters than usual and a head-scratching lack of even the macabre, masks, wild antics, or inventive dystopia of past Purges to even make it palatable. It is without doubt the worst Purge movie and one of the worst movies of the year and here’s why.
For the countless things wrong with the Purge, it would be remiss to at least point out some things it does right. For one, they do get one character right and that’s Dmitri. An absolute BADASS that’s classic 80’s macho lead and runs Staten Island so to speak, Y’lan Noel’s performance and inclusion is exceptionally refreshing in a modern Hollywood that’s (while important) been piling on the female leads and seemingly left strong male leads that show guys they can be capable too, in the dust. His fight scenes are well-designed like the hallway strobe-esque army scene and add the action factor that at least keep this movie from being unwatchable and will hopefully skyrocket his career after this.
Also, the psychological angle of making it a true experiment in one small area of the country in Staten Island, New York before taking it public, with Marissa Tomei’s intriguing although half-baked architect of the event, and a good twist making the government be *SPOILER* secretly faking the numbers of participation and evilly trying to target low-income minorities they tricked into staying for the slaughter. Brutal. As someone who majored in Bio and took many Psych, Animal Behavior, and other related classes, the dystopian idea of the Purge actually has psychological and evolutionary backgrounds and supportings because of the millions of years of primordial and wild animal instincts we have coursing through our veins that we have to suppress in domesticated environments. Now, I’m not in *any* way saying The Purge has merit as a real-life event, but as an idea with rootings in science, it’s downright intriguing and the film does a decent job at least postulating that.
Now, that we’ve exhausted all possible pros of this film, it’s time to lay on the cons. First of all, the movie is downright BORING. Painfully slow with a head-scratching awful first act that was supposed to lay the groundwork for the anarchy and government chaos that led to them literally incentivizing and legalizing murder, it chinces on that and doesn’t even explain that well besides a few protests that barely look wilder than anything in real life. Don’t think we’ll be seeing a real Purge happen any time soon, the filmmakers hilariously dropped the ball on the big set-up that we were all expecting and came for. The opening was also cliched in having a madman say ‘I need to purge’ and then the purge is happening. Smh.
Beyond that, the characters are just awful. Besides Dmitri and a half-baked Tomei Psychologist, the rest of the characters are dull, lifeless, horrendously acted, and shakily developed. I could not bring myself to even care in the slightest for any of the characters or want to know anything more about them than what’s scattingly disintegrated on screen. Even now, I can barely remember their names but years later I can remember characters like the Sandins, Leo Barnes, Senator Roan. I understand the movies are successful because of how little the budget is compared to the rewards, but my word at least spend more on your main actors/actresses instead of getting ones who look like they came off the street or that this is their first movie.
Next, the seeming lack of diversity and shameless post-credits plug. We have moved away from an all-white cast in this movie. but instead of having diversity like the last two films did, the color is just shifted to an almost all-African American cast. There is no problem with this at all and I love that they are getting their recognition and screen time after all the horrible things they have suffered through in this country, but having a cast that’s all of one color, be it ANY color, is by definition lack of diversity and while I don’t usually say it’s more important than getting good actors no matter the race, in films like these where all the actors pretty much have to do is act scared and run, there is no excuse for not having easy diversity in casting here. Also, the post-credits scene at the end of the movie rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, me included. A shameless plug for a new Purge TV series, it spawned audible groans and eye-rolls from the audience and served almost like a paid TV commercial than post-credits scene that’s meant to be a creative way to hint at what’s next or a behind-the-scenes continuity shot, but came across like they’re bludgeoning the series to death, worse especially after a bad movie.
Finally, the biggest problem with the whole movie and unexcusable: NOTHING WILD HAPPENS DURING THE PURGE. The macabre, masks, wild antics, booby traps/violence that is the only reason people go to this franchise’s movies to satisfy their guilty pleasure and the thrill of jump-scare horror fun, is not even given to us.. which brings to question: what on earth am I watching it for? I understand they’re trying to say people are better and didn’t want to participate until the government faked the numbers with mercs for hire, but c’mon, not having any cool horror sequences (the old ladies’ fireworks bears were about the only thing even characterizable as in the same atmosphere as genius past Purge decorations like George Washington with the machete in Election Year and the chilling ‘God’ mask and wave in Election Year and even that was weak & victimless), is a little like having a car with no wheels.
Overall, The First Purge is a mess. I cannot describe my shock and disappointment in the fact that it did not even deliver that basic and, frankly, easy horror shenanigans even an average viewer could think up and make passable. It is too slow and uneventful, has uninteresting and uninspiring characters, and does not live up to the opportuninity of making an interesting build-up to the wild all-crime-is-legal event, failing to even have the interesting ‘haunted house’ setups and macabre we watch for. Worst Purge movie ever.
Official CLC Score: 2.1/10