Granger on Film / “The Purge” is cynical and not subtle
This exploitative prequel introduces a NRA-backed third political party, New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA), whose conservative spokesman occupies the White House in the dystopian near-future.
Looking for a way to curb out-of-control crime and burn off sociopathic anger, the government adopts a ritual theorized by Dr. May Updale (Marisa Tomei), which postulates giving people a temporary ‘free pass’ to do whatever they want for a specified period of time - one night - encourages lawful behavior during the rest of the year.
Choosing a densely populated, yet easily isolated place - New York’s self-contained Staten Island - this implausible, aggression-releasing ‘experiment’ soon becomes a 12-hour bloodbath.
The protagonists are African-American or Latina, like Dmitri (Y’lan Noel), a skeptical drug kingpin who plans to take cover and stay there, and his onetime girlfriend Nya (Lex Scott Davis), a community activist who is aware that civility is at stake and joins her ‘resistance’ neighbors in church.
Sharing a different view is Nya’s younger brother Isaiah (Jovian Wade), who views the pilot program as an opportunity to settle scores with Skeletor (Rotimi Paul), a psychopathic bully.
To encourage murder and mayhem, officials, like NFFA chief-of-staff Arlo Sabian (Patch Darragh), offer a financial incentive of $5,000 to enthusiastic mercenaries, along with contact-lens video-cameras to record their depravity.
Sloppily scripted as an origin story by James DeMonaco and haphazardly directed by Gerard McMurray, it’s the fourth film in the action/horror/thriller franchise that started with “The Purge” (2013), followed by “The Purge: Anarchy” (2014) and “The Purge: Election Year” (2016).
Fanning the publicity fire, Blumhouse Productions’ Jason Blum (“Get Out”) told Variety: “If every time there’s a shooting in the United States, the government’s answer is to put more guns in people’s hands, then what ‘The Purge’ is showing doesn’t seem all that crazy.”
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The First Purge” is a cynical, satirical 4. And there’s nothing subtle about the poster: a red “Make America Great Again” baseball cap.