The Purge series can never be accused of being short of ideas since it first appeared back in 2013. Now creator James DeMonaco has President Trump firmly in his sights in The First Purge, using the social fears of the present day as a platform for his dystopian nightmare, with director Gerard McMurray taking over duties behind the camera.
The First Purge takes us back to the origins of the night, where the gaping hole created by increasingly polarised Democrat and Republican leaders has seen the rise of a new party into office called the New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA). Society is crumbling as the rich have more money than ever and the poor are fuelled by anger and resentment at a recession ten times worse than anything seen before.
We join the story two days before the first ‘experiment’ (which later becomes known as The Purge) on Staten Island in New York begins, a concept drummed up by the psychologist by Dr Updale (Marisa Tomei) and put into action by the NFFA. As always, we are introduced to a cross-section of people who serve as our eyes and ears for the night including activist Nya (Lex Scott Davis), younger brother Isaiah (Jovian Wade) and drug kingpin Dmitri (Y’lan Noel). The NFFA may be willing to exploit the low-income black and Latina community for political gain but the locals aren’t going to down without a fight.
Of course, The First Purge has been released on American Independence Day and the filmmaking itself is just as brutally obvious. The racial-cleansing that ran through The Purge: Election Year is expanded upon by McMurray, with white supremacist groups running amok, and the devil politicians in suits watching the action unfold with relish from the safety of their control centre.
Elsewhere there is Klansman roaming the streets armed with semi-automatics, others dressed head-to-toe in Nazi regalia and white men in police uniforms wielding their truncheons on a bloodied black man in the centre of a baseball stadium. Evil indeed. And yet, the drug dealer Dmitri becomes the hero who will protect the little people. Yes, that’s right, the drug dealer who has spent years destroying the community is now pitched as its moral saviour.
Y’lan Noel embraces the 80s action hero aesthetic, taking out swathes of masked purgers, barely collecting a scratch on his 50-Cent style mug. Aside from the nefarious NFFA guys organising the event as a form of population control, Rotimi Paul’s Skeletor – the local nut job – is given full autonomy to overperform his role as the uncontrollably wide-eyed killer enjoying the carnage. Elsewhere, the rest of the cast would look more comfortable on the small screen, unable to add anything to their poorly underwritten characters.
There is no doubt The First Purge will play well for anyone in search of a brainless couple of hours for the evening, while also adding more profit to a series that has already been a huge box office success. The concept behind this franchise means it will run and run for some time yet (there is also a TV series on the way), so any hope of it being the last purge is an impossible dream.
The First Purge is released in cinemas today.