Can you believe it? It’s been five years since the original “The Purge” was released in theaters and we are now being blessed with a fourth entry in the franchise. It’s been seeming inevitable that “The Purge” series would hit a fictitious wall of creativity at some point. “The First Purge”, a prequel to the last three films in the series, fails to capture the creativity that the last three featured and ultimately turns this insane trilogy, into another series that has overstayed its welcome.
For the first time in the franchise, James DeMonaco isn’t in control behind the camera, and Gerard McMurray has taken over the reigns. While throughout this 98 minute runtime, there are some wonderfully shot scenes, even some that are quite possibly the best in the series. A majority of the film is muddled down by questionable directing and poor writing choices that even a talented director couldn’t have managed to fix. The conclusion seems relentless to resemble “The Raid” in some manner and yet it fails enormously with its cliche, predictable final act. Lastly, let’s stop having the “The Purge” movies have slow motion sequences thrown in them, because they are really the plague of this franchise, beyond a serious lack of original themes.
After a great opening, which explained the purge scenario to the audience and to the general public, the film descends into a downward spiral. It’s undeniable that to me, the film franchise was running out of steam and it just so happens that beyond the little explanation given, the rest of the film is relentless nonsense. Sure a few characters shine, but not enough to make this film even slightly interesting. It’s a concept that is now overdone and “The First Purge” is just something that fails at being original, removing any fun that the previous films had. While I liked the explanation of how the people were recruited into participating in the first ever purge, they all get discarded quickly and even their reasoning never gets visually proven on screen, which is certainly a disappointment. After four “The Purge” films, they’ve honestly become a collaboration of bland plot after bland plot by now, which without creative murders or shocking villains (although there is one that is wasted near the end), this franchise needs a serious revitalization.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Y’lan Noel plays Dmitri, this prequels attempt at recapturing the badass characterization of Frank Grillo’s Leo, and one of the only minimal successes the film can grant its viewers. The side characters are where this film fails the most, beyond the main villain and hero, the characters are relatively minimal in their characterization. Some so poorly executed, that their characters serve absolutely no purpose in forwarding the plot. The quality of acting is very all over the place, creating vibrant characterization with some, while having others come off as cheesy B-Movie schlock that should of never made it into the final cut in the first place. What’s so odd is that the stuff that doesn’t actually feel like “The Purge” is the most entertaining part, such as the consistent gang wars, that unfortunately don’t shine as much as they could of within the lackluster story, but the inclusion of it made it an interesting piece of the film, which included a couple of decently entertaining side characters. I think it’s about time the producers of “The Purge” series went all out, giving Frank Grillo, full John Wick characterization and having him just go around murdering everyone with headshot after headshot in a vigilante kind of way...but that would be duplicating. If they do another entry (beyond the upcoming television series) I truly hope the filmmakers let Grillo make a comeback, because he is certainly a big piece of what makes this franchise stay alive.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
There are ominous tones galore in this prequel, that reuses a majority of the score from the previous three entries. Besides successfully divulging a sense of intense energy through it’s background score, “The First Purge” score comes off as a stale recycling. This concept has worked before, however four movies in and the same score slightly altered isn’t going to cut it. Beyond the score, there are multiple issues with the sound effects, including the overall emitting of weapon noises coming off as dull. With a few shocking moments, mainly causing a ‘jump scare’ effect that depending on the usage sometimes would work and other times would fail, this is a failure. The sound design just appears as lazy, four movies in, with similar predictable jump scares within each and every one of them.
Lets begin with a villainous character named Skeletor, who’s makeup is unnaturally frightening and feels like he could have real scarring from real life violence. For the first few acts of the film, he is the main villain on the island, and the lighting effects, most notably when Skeletor is dancing at a party, before viciously stabbing several people, is a genuinely well filmed, as well aswell lit scene. The violence as always makes its impact, but is certainly not as well coordinated as in the last few entries. Several violent attacks are visually appealing but are ultimately pointless to the overall plot, but as per usual, the violence is bloody and executed well, even if it may be a tad cartoony at times.
Maybe it’s time to wrap this series up. I understand that a ‘event’ series is coming to a tv set near you this fall but beyond that small mini series, maybe it’s time for this film series to die. Without the noteworthy Frank Grillo in the title role again, this film loses a massive amount of the fun that the past two films possessed. While the original isn’t a film to write home about, it certainly is something different and after the same old, same old for three films now, the first in the franchise is a refreshing small take on this violent world it is set in. A majority of what made the last three films enjoyable is lost in this prequel and it is clearly trying to hard to keep the series going, while not fully realizing where it should go from here. For fans of the series, I would leave this one alone and stick with the semi-solid trilogy you currently have the capability of watching.