Taking place before the first film, this prequel gives us a glimpse of how the infamous Purge came to be. The citizens of Staten Island find themselves as the test experiments with prize money rewarded to them if they choose to participate. But as we already know, this doesn’t end too well for these citizens and America.
After a terrible first film, and two fun and thrilling sequels, it was almost inevitable that a prequel would come about. And like most prequels, this one isn’t exactly necessary. Granted it is interesting to see what the initial purpose of the Purge was and how exactly it came to be the terrifying blood both we’ve come to know it for, as well as see reasons why some would participate. This whole idea was made up by Marisa Tomei’s character to be used as a psychological experiment, but it ultimately goes awry in way she couldn’t imagine. This film is easily the darkest entry of the films, going in some pretty hefty territories, especially a sequences involving Purgers dressed as KKK members, just to give you an idea. Of course it wouldn’t be Purge film without its politics thrown in. Some work, and some are a bit groan-worthy. We have a scene where Purgers dressed as policemen surround a wounded black man, presumably ready to beat him to death. And while I suppose this could be said for the other films, this movie doesn’t really have much of a plot and is pretty all over the place.
Now, we do have some likable protagonists and you do root for them, even if they’re particularly all that special. However, I love the sassy black woman played by Orange is the New Black actress Mugga, she was the comic relief that didn’t overstay her welcome. Our leading male played Y’lan Noel I actually found a lot more likable than Frank Grillo’s character from Anarchy and Election Year. Granted they both were the tough bad ass heroes, Noel’s character felt at least a bit more real and not a tough federal agent guy. Lex Scott Davis however comes off as the most real character of them all. She shows great care for those around her and is willing to sacrifice herself in order to save them. Both Noel and Davis really deliver with their performances. Now we get to one of the more unfortunate aspects and that is the fact that Marisa Tomei is totally wasted in this film. She gets about 7-10 minutes of screen time and she doesn’t get much to do with that screen time besides talk to a news camera in her first scene and watch surveillance footage of the mayhem for most of her scenes. It’s only when her character develops an arc and might actually get to go somewhere, her character gets tossed aside. This ultimately made the casting of Tomei a slap in the face and they could have just cast a nobody in the role.
The thing with The First Purge is that, as a prequel, it’s exactly what you would expect, however, I think this would have been so much better had this been the actual first film in the series as opposed to the one we got. This movie does have what you want from a Purge film however, crazy violence, and protagonists giving Purgers their just deserts. It also helps the main guy and girl are very likable. If you’re a fan of the franchise, I can’t imagine you won’t like this one. Those who aren’t fans won’t be won over.