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. 




Film Review: Jailbreak

Director and co-writer Jimmy Henderson’s Jailbreak is a fun and sometimes silly action thriller. The fight choreography is great, but is let down by other aspects.

A special task force are charged with escorting a key witness to a notorious jail. Would should be a straightforward mission turns to chaos, with a bounty on the witness’s head and a jail full of dangerous prisoners…

Jailbreak is pretty much Cambodia’s version of The Raid. There are many similarities between the two films, although Henderson’s film lacks the panache of the Indonesian film. Jailbreak‘s one-note plot revolves around the effort of the task force to locate and protect Playboy, the criminal turned witness, from the various dangers in the prison. There are flashes of something more gripping, but these peter out. For example, the female antagonist and her band of cohorts make for a more interesting big villain. Yet the music video-style sequence is so out of place, it detracts from a more interesting concept.

Really, Jailbreak is all about the fight sequences. And there are plenty of these. Choreography is great, making the most of the skilled participants. Particular highlights are the sequences involving Jean-Paul Ly and Tharoth Sam, even if their acting does not live up to their martial arts skills. Sequences are well executed, even if production values let them down.

In the haste to concentrate on the fighting bodies, other aspects get left to the wayside. Camera work is functional but without flair, whilst lighting and editing offers little in terms of visual appeal. The music can be ill-fitting also. Dialogue is not the film’s strong suit, whilst the slapstick humour grows tired quickly.

Jailbreak offers high-octane action, which does entertain sufficiently well. By the final third, these scenes become a little flat without the visual aesthetics to bolster the great choreography. Henderson’s film is mostly fun, but not overly striking.

Jailbreak is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2017.

Previews: Unlocked Trailer, Power Rangers, More!

Plenty in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including the new Unlocked trailer, The Beguiled, Power Rangers and more…

Unlocked Trailer

Here is the first Unlocked trailer. Noomi Rapace heads a stellar cast that includes Orlando Bloom, Toni Collette, Michael Douglas and John Malkovich. The action-thriller is about a CIA agent who must prevent a biological attack on London. It’s always London. Unlocked hits UK screens on 5th May 2017.

The Beguiled Trailer

Sofia Coppola’s latest film looks thrilling. The Beguiled is set during the Civil War, with a girls’ school in Virginia taking in a wounded Union soldier. The film Nicole Kidman, Colin Farrell, Elle Fanning, and Kirsten Dunst. The Beguiled is set for release in UK cinemas on 23rd June 2017.

Headshot Trailer

Headshot is revenge thriller which is all about the action sequences. Starring The Raid‘s Iko Uwais, it’s clear that these scenes are going to be good. Uwais plays an amnesiac struggling to recall his identity before a crime lord murders the only person he trusts. Headshot will be released in UK cinemas and VOD on 3rd March 2017.

Power Rangers Poster

Here is the latest poster for upcoming movie Power Rangers. Based on the television franchise of the same name, the film stars Bryan Cranston and Elizabeth Banks. From this poster, it is clear the film is hoping to tap into nostalgia. Power Rangers will be out on UK screens on 24th March 2017.

Personal Shopper Trailer

Kristen Stewart plays the lead in Personal Shopper. Directed by Olivier Assayas, the film is about a personal shopper to the stars, who is hoping for a message from her deceased twin brother. Personal Shopper is out in UK cinemas on 17th March 2017.

The LEGO Ninjago Movie Trailer

Those watching The LEGO Batman Movie this weekend will see a short for this upcoming The LEGO Ninjago Movie. Based on the toy line, the film features the voices of Jackie Chan, Justin Theroux and Dave Franco. The LEGO Ninjago Movie is set for release on 13th October 2017.

Finding Fatimah Trailer

Finding Fatimah is a new comedy about Shahid, a young Muslim who longs to find a partner.  The only problem is that he is divorced, a big no-no for all the young women he encounters. The film stars Danny Ashok, Asmara Gabrielle, and Nina Wadia. Finding Fatimah is out in UK cinemas on 21st April 2017.

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.