Director: Gerard McMurray
Cast: Y’lan Noel, Lex Scott Davis, Joivan Wade
Release Date: October 2, 2018
A Review By: Kevin Lovell
Film Rating: 7/10
Disc Rating: 7/10
Blumhouse Productions welcomes you to the movement that began as a simple experiment: The First Purge. 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 marginalized, the contagion will explode from the trial-city borders and spread across the nation.
The fourth movie in the popular film franchise, ‘The First Purge’ takes us back to the experiment that started it all. With the NFFA (New Founding Fathers of America) securing their place within the government, a questionable new experiment is proposed. Contained within Staten Island for the test, the first instance of what would later be officially dubbed The Purge begins. Following the same general rules as the purge we all know, those remaining on Staten Island are promised a healthy chunk of much needed cash merely for remaining on the island; with incentives for more active participation promised. But when the citizens don’t prove to be nearly as violent or aggressive as expected, the higher-ups call in undercover groups of trained killers to excel the carnage and guarantee success. But when a glimmer of hope arises from the most unexpected of sources unafraid to ruthlessly fight back against them, the real battle truly begins.
Directed this time around by franchise newcomer Gerard McMurray (Burning Sands) from a screenplay once again written by James DeMonaco (who wrote and directed all three previous films in the series), McMurray does a pretty solid job taking over at the helm for ‘The First Purge’ and capably capturing the struggle, disturbing violence and other key traits of the series. Considering that the film is a prequel to every chapter that came before it shouldn’t be too surprising that the cast is comprised entirely of new faces to the franchise and includes Y’lan Noel (TV’s Insecure), Lex Scott Davis (Superfly 2018), Joivan Wade (TV’s Doctor Who), Steve Harris (Chi-Raq), Mugga (TV’s Power), Marisa Tomei (The Wrestler), Rotimi Paul (Dutch Kills) and a number more, the majority providing pretty decent performances for the most part in each of their respective roles.
‘The First Purge’ is unsettling, tense and at times even a bit moving. Bringing everything fans of the series tend to want including no shortage of blood soaked mayhem and excitement, not to mention plenty of time concentrating on the purging aspect. Wisely taking the time to also showcase other aspects of what might occur should a night like this be implemented; such as a man out for revenge on the ATM machine that charged him fees for so long and wild, raging parties popping up around town. A tamer aspect we haven’t seen much of in other ‘Purge’ entries yet one that feels like it would be nearly as common as the random violence, particularly in the earliest stages of the night’s incarnation. Fans can rest assured that it doesn’t hold back with the violent aspects either, regularly dishing out some twisted and blood soaked insanity up there with some of the franchise’s finest; at least aside from the almost cringe worthy blasts of CGI blood often spraying about (and onto) the screen. It does feel a bit overly silly (and unintentionally so) on occasion and takes some time to really find a smooth and accommodating tone but eventually comes together nicely and makes for an overall worthy addition to franchise. I would certainly encourage fans of the series to make a point of giving ‘The First Purge’ a chance whenever possible. It may not quite manage to reach the levels of greatness that were seen in the second installment specifically, but definitely still manages to serve up a bloody, tense and generally solid chapter that finally goes back and gives us a look at how the night actually began.
Overall, ‘The First Purge’ takes us back to the night that started it all and delivers a bloody and unnerving ride filled with plenty of tense moments and purge related insanity. While also allowing viewers to experience some of the tamer yet equally believable events that one might imagine happening on such a night like looting and partying, yet never detracting from the unsetting violence and lawless free anarchy fans expect from the films. ‘The First Purge’ is definitely recommended for fans of the series (and newcomers to the franchise probably won’t have all that much trouble following it either considering the film serves as a prequel and doesn’t include any returning characters) and while it’s certainly not the most impressive installment yet, it’s not the worst either and should stand a good chance of at least proving worth your time and the cost of a rental one evening.
The Blu-ray release of ‘The First Purge’ features a full 1080p High Definition presentation utilizing the film’s original 2.39:1 Cinemascope Aspect Ratio. The video presentation looks magnificent as a whole and provides a sharp, detailed and richly colored presentation from start to finish with no noticeable faults to be found throughout. It holds up remarkably well even during the numerous darkly lit and heavily active scenes, never causing anything occurring on screen to become negatively affected or rendered indiscernible. Overall, this is a wonderful high definition video presentation from Universal that should easily please fans and first time viewers alike.
The Blu-ray release features a DTS: X (DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 channel compatible) soundtrack. Please note that this review pertains solely to the 7.1 channel DTS-HD MA presentation. This multichannel soundtrack delivers a clean, crisp and wildly aggressive audio presentation throughout. It constantly takes full advantage of all seven available channels in order to immerse the viewer within the chaos by sending bullets whizzing throughout the various speakers with regularity, along with blood splashing, debris, screams and crowd chatter along with plenty more, while never resulting in any dialogue or other audio elements that might be occurring simultaneously becoming distorted or rendered inaudible. Overall, this is a fantastic DTS: X (DTS-HD MA 7.1 compatible) soundtrack that sounds great from start to finish and does a splendid job of complimenting the film every step of the way.
The Blu-ray release of ‘The First Purge’ includes a couple of enjoyable extras. Included on the release is one ‘Deleted Scene’ from the movie (running approximately 2 minutes in length) which is actually a fun bonus and even explains a continuity error within the film. Also included are a few short Behind the Scenes Featurettes that explore different aspects of the film and feature interviews/comments with the cast and crew, plus some behind the scenes footage. The included Featurettes are: ‘A Radical Experiment’ (running approximately 5 minutes), ‘Bringing the Chaos’ (approximately 1 minute) and ‘The Masks of The First Purge’ (1 minute).