The First Purge review: The Purge series goes back to the very beginning as audiences get to finally witness the first purge night.
The First Purge review by Kat Hughes.
The Purge franchise started life in 2013 as audiences watched Lena Headey and Ethan Hawke try to survive the Annual Purge, a night where all crime, including murder, is legal. This was followed in 2014 with The Purge Anarchy featuring Frank Grillo battling his way through the streets during another purge night; he then returned in 2016 for Purge: Election Year for more purging fun. Now, after a two-year break, director Gerard McMurray takes us back to the origins of the purge with prequel The First Purge. For the non-literal out there, as the title suggests, the film follows the unfolding of the very first purge night, the one that started everything. Cue parties, protests, riots, and all manner of carnage as our protagonists try to survive the night.
This time the plot follows Nya (Lex Scott Davis), a protester of the purge, her younger brother Isaiah (Joivan Wade), and her ex-boyfriend (and local drug-lord) Dmitri (Y’lan Noel). All three are residents of Staten Island, the chosen site of the first purge ‘experiment’ wherein destitute residents are incentivised with money to remain and try to survive the purge.
Unlike ‘Anarchy’ and ‘Election Year’, both of which jumped straight into the action, The First Purge goes back to its origin film and slowly builds its way up to the purging hours. This gives us the opportunity to understand our core characters a little better – though none really rise that far above predictable stereotypes. Once purging begins, this film tries to show more crimes than the franchise’s default of murder, but it isn’t long until it falls into the genre convention and the blood flies freely.
Related: The Purge: Election Year review
Director Gerard McMurray does a commendable job of trying to revitalise a one-trick series. His camera direction unveils some interesting visuals, and there’s a reasonable amount of tension, but the pace wanes a little, especially towards the end where we fall into massive Die Hard and The Raid territory. There’s also a misguided use of coloured contact lenses. These neon nasties might link the film to the newer predecessors, but ultimately cheapen several moments that could be much better without.
The First Purge isn’t the worst Purge film, but fails to move the story on in any dynamic way. It suffers heavily from prequel syndrome. We all know the purging becomes an annual event which leads to a lack of dramatic tension. Fear not though Purge fans, this most certainly isn’t the end of this universe as a TV series is already in development.
The First Purge review by Kat Hughes, July 2018.
The First Purge is in UK cinemas now.