|Starring||Lex Scott Davis, Y'lan Noel, Joivan Wade, Marisa Tomei, Rotimi Paul, Mugga, Patch Darragh|
|Release||4 JUL (US) 4 JUL (UK) Certificate 15|
There is mileage in the concept still; the parallels drawn between kids working street corners for cash and people purging so they can make rent are pertinent ones. The cast is also home to some interesting characters, including local gang lord Dmitri (an assured performance by newcomer Y'lan Noel), by all accounts a thug and a gangster but nonetheless a community man who makes the Purge for an exercise in population control. He's no Stringer Bell and we’re a long way from The Wire here - young kid Isaiah complains there's "no way out" of his life of crime, despite being offered a legitimate job that very morning - but The First Purge goes beyond the call of duty when it comes to grounding a grimy horror franchise in a believable reality.
The first half of the movie does a decent enough job of establishing the set-up, even if it does skimp on details, but the remainder of the run time is depressingly dedicated to guns, guts and gore - just like every other purge. At one point, a news reporter asks why purgers wear masks ("Are they ashamed of their violent acts?") but it’s clearly because no one can deliver this dialogue with a straight face. Marisa Tomei plays the behavioural scientist who created the Purge but she's lumbered with a clunky script and a rather abrupt moral handbrake turn; "What have I done?" she asks obliviously, when the murderers in her murder experiment start murdering people. If you were hoping for some real insight into what could make a bent and broken nation finally snap, you won’t find it here.
As per the other Purge movies, there are kernels of good ideas rattling around the bag that go unpopped, which proves there's still life in the concept - and the proposed ten-episode Purge TV series, airing in September and set between purges rather than on the night itself, might yet give the franchise the depth it craves. For now, The First Purge is seemingly content to keep the corpses coming and the politics at arm's length - just try and suppress your smile when one of the assailants is labelled a "pussy-grabbing motherfucker".