Film Review: The First Purge

Dystopian horror prequel The First Purge offers the same brand of violence and social commentary as the rest of the series. Four films in, it all feels a bit too familiar. 

After the breakdown of American society, a new political party (the New Founding Fathers of America) is in power. The party allow an experiment to take place on Staten Island; for twelve hours, all crime is legal…

A prequel to the horror trilogy, The First Purge shows viewers how the annual event first began. The film concentrates on an experiment that takes place on Staten Island, which paves the way for a national event. The opening gambit summarises how America got to the point where the purge experiment would be acceptable. Director Gerard McMurray breezes through this aspect, using newsreel of protests to show how America has come to this point. The reasoning behind the experiment is flimsy, with the scantest of efforts exploring the method behind it. 

From the first film in 2013, The Purge series has become more of a reflection of contemporary America. The first film felt like satire, but the filmmakers have tried to marry the films to real-life issues increasingly as the series has progressed. This prequel continues this trend, feeling less satire and more possible future. Some of the imagery, references, and phrases capitalise on this. 

There is a high body count in The First Purge, but the feeling of déjà vu is strong. As the narrative is set up, the movements are too familiar. The protagonists are made clear, but character development is not a priority for writer James DeMonaco. Later in the film there is a sequence taken straight from The Raid; the foreshadowing is almost overpowering for those familiar with Gareth Evans’ film. 

Performances in the film are perfectly acceptable. Mugga’s Delores given some good lines, providing necessary comic relief. Marisa Tomei is underused in a thankless role. Lex Scott Davis is decent. Dialogue in the film is not always great, but an improvement on the last chapter, The Purge: Election Year.

The First Purge rounds up the series suitably well, and leaves the film franchise no where to go. The film is not boring, but is not original either. 

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Film Review: The Raid

Ultraviolent The Raid is one of the best action movies of recent years. Gareth Evans’ film  is exceptionally well executed; The Raid is a tour de force ride.

Police are aware of an apartment building in Jakarta that is run by a notorious gangster and filled with criminals. The police are unwilling to enter the area, apart from a SWAT team tasked with infiltrating the building and arresting gangster Tama. When things don’t go according to plan, the officers are left in a perilous situation…

The Raid offers a fairly simple plot; it does not take very long for the action to commence. The characters are developed sufficiently for the audience to root for the protagonist. Nevertheless, little time is wasted trying to fill in the background of the main characters or adding any superfluous detail. The Raid seems almost like a video game, in the best possible way. The floors function as levels which the hero must pass. Moreover, the action sequences are so superlative that they seem almost unreal.

The pull of The Raid lies in these action sequences. They are fantastically produced. Pacing in the film is good, with little let up between set pieces. The action sequences themselves are choreographed tremendously well. They are frenetic and always engaging.

Evans’ film certainly is not for the faint hearted. The violence is graphic; The Raid does not shy away from depicting some gory moments. Some of the scenes excel in conjuring tension. Others push the limits of plausibility, creating much-needed humour to break up the serious action.

Ray Sahetapy is suitably caricature as villain Tama. Iko Uwais makes a good protagonist, bringing the physicality needed for a character such as Rama. Uwais also choreographed the excellent fights, along with Yayan Ruhian. Gareth Evans edits the film successfully, as well as writing and directing. The camera work is most successful in utilising the space and capturing the frenzied action.

The Raid is highly recommended viewing for action film fans. Those of a nervous disposition may want to avoid this one.