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 Purge: Election Year

The Purge: Election Year

The Purge: Election Year is a suitable conclusion to the franchise. There are some interesting ideas in the film, although these are overplayed at times.

Former police officer Leo Barnes is now head of security for Senator Charlie Roan. Roan is running for president on a ticket of eliminating the annual purge. Those in power are less keen to see her succeed…

The first Purge film was a home invasion horror. The political overtones were clear, but these became much more overt in sequel The Purge: Anarchy. The Purge: Election Year is much less a horror film, although violence is frequent. The film functions as an action thriller – a race against time to protect the senator. This third instalment positions political and social allegory at the centre. Where it’s predecessor highlighted the inequalities of its dystopian world, this film makes the case on a grander scale.

The construction of the film is to introduce new characters, and make the audience care about their survival. Writer-director James DeMonaco gives Roan a backstory by way of brief flashback at the beginning of the film. This is enough to offer reasons for the character’s drive, yet does not flesh out a character that audiences will really care about. Having fought his demons in the previous instalment, Barnes is solely a protector in The Purge: Election Year.

Elsewhere, Joe’s dialogue is amusing to begin with, but quickly turns embarrassing. The girls who enter his shop are hideously overplayed. This distracts from a later sequence that works rather well. There are a few good set pieces in the film; the action is certainly stronger than the dialogue. Frank Grillo is strongest in the physical sequences, whilst Elizabeth Mitchell looks suitably ernest. Mykelti Williamson must despair at some of his material.

The Purge: Election Year, like its predecessors, has great ideas and good action sequences. However, the parts remain better than the sum.

Previews: Criminal Trailer, Julieta and More!

A host of film-related goodness in this week’s previews, including the Criminal trailer, Julieta, The Purge: Election Year and more…

Criminal Trailer

Here is the new Criminal trailer. The film features an enviable cast that includes Ryan Reynolds, Kevin Costner, Gary Oldman, and Tommy Lee Jones. Criminal revolves around death-row inmate Costner, who is implanted with the memories and skills of CIA operative Reynolds. The film will hot the big screen on 15th April 2016.

Julieta Trailer

Here is the trailer for Pedro Almodóvar’s latest film Julieta. The film centres on Julieta, a 55-year-old teacher who writes a confessional letter to her estranged adult daughter. The films seems to lack the comedy of Almodóvar’s other recent efforts; it seems a more reflective affair. Julieta is set for release in UK cinemas in August 2016.

Mike & Dave Need Wedding Dates

Mike & Dave Need Wedding Dates Poster

Mike & Dave Need Wedding Dates is the latest Zac Efron comedy. The film stars Efrom and Adam Devine as brothers who are required to bring dates to their sister’s wedding. Aubrey Plaza and Anna Kendrick may look the part, but they are after a free trip to Hawaii. Mike & Dave Need Wedding Dates is set for release on 12th August 2016.

Our Kind of Traitor Trailer

Ewan McGregor and Naomie Harries star as a British couple who meet a charismatic Russian money launderer on holiday. Based on the John Le Carré novel, the film also stars Stellan Skarsgård and Damian Lewis. Directed by the acclaimed Susanna White, Our Kind of Traitor will be released in cinemas on 6th May 2016.

The Purge: Election Year Trailer

The third instalment of the franchise, The Purge: Election Year sees the return of Frank Grillo’s character. In this film, he must protect a senator who has publicly spoken about her intention to end the annual purge event. The Purge: Election Year bounds onto UK screens on 15th July 2016.