“The First Purge” review

The-First-Purge-poster

The Purge series has a simple premise: A fascistic American government allows all crime to be legal for 12 continuous hours once a year. It’s also a small miracle, in that the dumb original—a been-there done-that home invasion story—has been followed by better movies, including the two direct sequels that increasingly painted Purge Night as class war in which the rich live and the poor die. Smart. This prequel finds the government paying Staten Islanders to participate in what they call “the experiment.” When the experiment results in few deaths, the government sends in militias. A drug dealer named Dmitri (thoughtfully played by Y’lan Noel) sits out the purge until it becomes clear the government is using the experiment as an excuse to kill welfare recipients. There’s some sloppy filmmaking—windows break and doors open without explanation—but once the action gets rolling, it rolls, man. The jump scares are effective, the action is fierce and the costume design leaves no doubt as to what kinds of people would hunt the poor for pleasure. I don’t know where this franchise is headed next, but I’m in.

This review first appeared in Salt Lake City Weekly.

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