Now for the last of the films in the Purge franchise, at least so far. While each movie has tried to shift focus on to different aspects surrounding the yearly Purge, this focuses much more on the people that it hurts the most. The Purge: Anarchy sort of tried to show a more street level, low income side of things but ended up being super scattered and unfocused. With The First Purge, we again focus on those that tend to be most vulnerable but I think it captures more of the heart from the first film since it focuses more closely around people that all have relationships with each other.
Going back to the beginning of the New Found Fathers of America’s regime; Staten Island is chosen as a testing area for an experiment in the release of aggression. People are coerced into staying on the island for the night by being promised $5000 if they stay and even more if they participate. Our main characters are Isaiah and his sister Nya and local gang leader and Nya’s ex Dimitri. When people aren’t participating in the numbers that were originally predicted; the NFFA sends out mercenaries in masks to pose as purgers to make it seem like the experiment is a success. The night then becomes about survival and protecting what matters most.
The cast is almost entirely PoCs with the only white folks being politicians or mercenaries. While it was always understood in a subtextual way throughout these films that the low income black and brown communities were usually affect the worst; The First Purge makes it clear that it’s not just because they are the least capable of defending themselves like was said in previous films. Instead, they are purposefully targeted due to a racist idea that these communities are somehow more inherently violent. It is not that this experiment is trying to release pent up anger and purge negative emotions. The entire thing is about trying to purge the “undesirables” from the country. There are so many powerful shots of mercenaries dressed in KKK robes or police and the movie really wants to make sure you understand that this isn’t about an imaginary dystopia but the actual everyday lives of many people.
Probably one of the most interesting and best used visual effects in the film comes from the contacts that the NFFA gives to those participating so they can get footage of what happens. Each of these contacts glow when put in as the cameras begin sending data back to the headquarters. Much more than any spooky mask, I think this lends an otherworldly look to those that decide to purge. They look alien and tainted by the entire process but, unlike the masks in the other films, the contacts aren’t an indicator that someone is actually hostile. Just that they want to make more money by participating in the event in some small way.
Score: 4.5 out of 5. I definitely liked this one the most out of the films. There is still plenty I could talk about like the fact that they kill the main scientist behind the experiment when she stops cooperating being a parallel to our politicians trying to get rid of any scientific evidence that doesn’t support their beliefs. However, I’ll end it here and say that I can actually recommend the franchise and this one in particular.