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Isaiah Robinson
Isaiah Robinson

The First Purge Fix

The First Purge is a 2018 American dystopian action horror film directed by Gerard McMurray and starring Y'lan Noel, Lex Scott Davis, Joivan Wade, and Steve Harris. Written and co-executive produced by James DeMonaco, it is the first film of The Purge series not to be directed by him.

The First Purge


In an alternate 2014, rising unemployment, lack of jobs, rising inflation and a housing crisis leads to the New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA), led by U.S. president Bracken, to replace the Democrats and Republicans as the most powerful political party in the United States. A crazed drug addict named Skeletor discusses his dark thoughts, including his desire to "purge" and unleash his hatred on other people. An NFFA employee tells Skeletor that he can very soon.

Two years later, in 2016, NFFA chief of staff Arlo Sabian and sociologist Dr. May Updale announce an experiment to take place on Staten Island where for 12 hours, citizens will be allowed to purge and release their inhibitions in any way they choose, including murder. The NFFA offers residents $5,000 to stay during the experiment, with additional compensation if they join the purge and survive. They also outfit the participants with contact lens cameras so that they can monitor all activity and put tracking devices in them so they will know if they try to leave the island.

Low-lying drug kingpin and businessman Dmitri tells his dealers that they will not be leaving the island, as moving his large amounts of money and product will draw too much attention, and tells them to stay in a safe house and lay low. Dealer Capital A decides to defy this order and go out and purge, while newbie dealer Isaiah is attacked and injured by Skeletor. Isaiah goes to his sister Nya, an anti-Purge activist and Dmitri's ex-girlfriend, for treatment. As people flee Staten Island, Nya joins her friends Dolores, Luisa, and Selina in a church to wait out the Purge. Dmitri has stayed behind; Anna and Elsa, two prostitutes, are sent by his dealers to his office to keep him company. Skeletor commits the first Purge murder, and the video recorded by the NFFA goes viral. The NFFA also observe that most of the crimes taking place are minor ones such as looting, vandalism, disorderly conduct, and public disturbances like loud parties, as opposed to the expected violent ones like murder.

Isaiah secretly joins the Purge to get his revenge on Skeletor. He eventually confronts him during the Purge but cannot shoot him. Isaiah runs off and into more purgers, before hiding and calling Nya for help. Anna and Elsa are revealed to be Purgers who attempt to kill Dmitri, but Dmitri fights them off and learns that Capital A had sent them in an attempt to take over Dmitri's business. Skeletor captures Nya in the streets and attempts to rape her, but Isaiah wounds him and they escape. Capital A and his crew go to Dmitri's office to thank Anna and Elsa for killing Dmitri, but Dmitri and his gang ambush him and kill them all, except for Anna and Elsa, who are told to never return to Staten Island. Nya and Isaiah return to the church to see blood-soaked white supremacist bikers leaving it. Although Nya's friend Luisa and her daughter Selina survive, Dolores' fate is unknown. They all return to Nya's apartment, where Dolores eventually manages to make it safely.

Parents need to know that The First Purge is the fourth movie in the popular Purge series -- and the first prequel, showing the beginning of the whole thing. Unsurprisingly, there's a ton of violence: killings, guns and shooting, strangling, stabbing and slashing, blood spurts/sprays, jump scares, and more. A brief but graphic sex scene shows a man's naked bottom thrusting between a woman's legs. Women are objectified, and some appear to be prostitutes. A man tries to grab a woman against her will. Language includes many uses of "f--k," "motherf----r," "s--t," the "N" word, and more. A main character, supposedly a good guy, is a drug dealer. There are brief scenes of drinking and drug use, as well as references to addiction. Despite the subject matter, audiences craving smart, sophisticated social commentary should look elsewhere.

In THE FIRST PURGE, a brand-new political party, the New Founding Fathers of America, ascends to power, promising prosperity. One of their big ideas, spawned by sociologist Dr. May Updale (Marisa Tomei), is a 12-hour period in which all crime will be legal. Citizens will get out their aggressions and be fine the rest of the year. This "purge" is tested on Staten Island, where the population is generally below middle-class. Drug lord Dmitri (Y'lan Noel) doesn't trust the purge, while his ex-girlfriend, Nya (Lex Scott Davis), protests in the streets. Her younger brother, Isaiah (Joivan Wade), who's begun dealing drugs, secretly wants to participate in the purge; he was attacked and cut by the psychotic Skeletor (Rotimi Paul) and wants revenge. When the purge eventually begins, very little goes as expected -- but the night quickly turns deadly.

The main characters are likable enough, if you can forget for a moment that Dmitri is a powerful drug lord who's willing to kill anyone who gets in his way. (The movie shows no awareness of the contradictory nature of this situation.) The most relevant moments are the commentary on unpunished white-on-black violence and sexual assault, as well as frightening references to the KKK, but these things are simple asides, floating above an ocean of mediocrity and exploitative violence. They have no more relevance to the story at hand than does the "psychology" of the purge itself, especially compared to far more sophisticated and effective recent films (Get Out being the most notable example). We can only hope that The First Purge will also be the last.

As the first purge is underway, a vicious group of white supremacist-esque mercenaries nearly massacre an entire group of churchgoers seeking refuge at a sanctuary. This is a clear allusion to how white supremacist Dylann Roof took the lives of eight black people in a Charleston, South Carolina church in 2015. Similarly, a caravan of Nazi-like mercenaries parading through the Staten Island streets eerily recalls the car that drove through a counter-protest to a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville that killed Heather Heyer last August.

Blessed be our New Founding Fathers for granting Ultra HD Blu-ray with an excellent, occasionally stunning HEVC H.265 encode. Shot entirely on the Arri Alexa Mini camera system, capable of up to 3.2K resolution, the freshly-minted transfer lets loose its rage and savagery with a welcomed uptick in definition, looking every so slightly sharper and exposing the smallest defect and flaw in the urban streets. We can clearly make out tiny scratches, bullet holes and smudges of mold covering the walls of apartments while the pits and pockmarks on the stone buildings and sidewalks are plainly visible even from a short distance. Unfortunately, resolution levels dip slightly at night during the actual purge experiment, which is a majority of the movie. It's not too terrible but noticeable nonetheless compared to earlier daylight scenes and to the Blu-ray. The upscaled picture also comes with a fair share of mild aliasing along the sharpest edges while blinds and the brick walls of buildings almost have a moiré effect.

The first Purge movie eve rmade takes viewers into the then-future of 2022 (my how time flies) to look at the wealthy Sandin family, whose primary breadwinner is security system mastermind James Sandin. The Sandins have enough security to keep them safe for the entire night but things are thrown into chaos when son Charlie (Max Burkholder) lets in a figure only known as Bloody Stranger (Edwin Hodge). A group of Purgers wants Bloody Stranger back so that they can murder him and will now do anything, include kill this family, to get back their target.

This is also the first title in the series, in release order, to explicitly state that the violence in The Purge is being manipulated by the NFFA, with the same tactics seen in The First Purge still being employed throughout The Purge: Anarchy.

After three movies, The Purge franchise is taking things back in time for audiences to purge and purify on the night that started it all. The First Purge will allow us to see the events of the first-ever Purge night in grisly fashion, and it sounds like it will feel different from previous incarnations. In fact, The First Purge producer Andrew Form recently opened up about the project while speaking to CinemaBlend about the upcoming release of A Quiet Place, and he explained that the prequel will tell a more personal story about an incredibly badass hero. Form elaborated:

Well, this is the first one so we're going the other way. It is relevant in that we have an odd government that has some unusual ideas that they're putting forth and they feel very confident that that's the right way to go. Our story is about a group of people who don't agree with what's the government is doing and are trying to fight against it. I don't want to give too much away, but I don't know what it is about DeMonaco but he's just super super good at figuring out where the world is going, and he's done that here.

This makes quite a bit of sense. From the very first installment, the franchise has always framed The Purge as a way to satire modern politics. That came to a conclusion during The Purge: Election Year, in which the heroes actually managed to bring the reign of the New Founding Fathers to an end, though we don't know how permanent that end was. With The First Purge, we will see the seeds of that rebellion planted as the fascist government rises.

The First Purge uses its franchise wrapping to tell what otherwise might be considered a commercially risky picture. Like The LEGO Movie, it also uses its franchise trappings as security to tell a thoughtful character drama, one loaded with political commentary and self-dissection alongside the more conventional genre elements. This Gerard McMurray-directed prequel, which tells of the very first "Purge Night," is most frightening by being more optimistic than the current real world. Like Chris Nolan's The Dark Knight, which had Gotham's terrorized citizens refusing to slaughter each other even at the risk of their own lives, The First Purge argues that even the economically disadvantaged would, left to their own devices, live alongside each other in relative peace. 041b061a72


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