The Purge Franchise is based in a premise of a world where things got so bad, the United States has instituted a one night a year event called the Purge in which all crime is legalized for a twelve hour period. While many people lock themselves away, others dress up and go out to get revenge, steal, murder and cause all sorts of mayhem.
The first film was focused squarely on an upper middle class white family whose walls came under siege. The fourth film moves it’s eyes to the projects. Sister and brother Nya and Isaiah live in a rundown building at the center of the city is being set aside for a small scale experimental version of the Purge concept. The government is paying people to stay, and even offering more payment to those who actually participate.
Nya’s ex-boyfriend is the local drug kingpin Dmitri. He tries to see himself as one of the good guys, but Nya disagrees, arguing the Purge may do damage to the neighborhood one night, but he damages it every day of the year.
As the night progresses, Dmitri and Nya realize that there is something not quite on the up and up, as the Government actually has very dark goals through the Purge. This forces them to work together to survive the night.
The Purge is not subtle, and never has been. The rich and politicians cannot be trusted, minorities are targeted in the Purge to basically reduce the surplus population. On the other hand, what used to feel like “over the top right wing bad guys” seems a little less outlandish in this modern age.
As with all Purge films, there are people with lessons to learn. In this film, it is Isaiah and Dmitri. For Isaiah, it is his attempt to get back at a violent junkie who cut him…for Dmitri, it is whether he is going to look out for himself or his community.
The Purge films has actually managed to be decently entertaining, and some of their sequences feel like they are meant to be a bit cathartic for audience members in a darkly comic way (such as the scene where a black man chokes a white man who is wearing a minstrel mask). As stated, their politics are by no means subtle. But one does not really expect subtlety from a low budget franchise like this.
While not quite as solid as the second and third films, this prequel actually works pretty well, and even includes some nice new touches. One of these is people agreeing to participate wear contacts that film their actions. The contacts give an eerie blue glow to the eyes, which is extra creepy when a person’s face is hidden in the shadows.
For fans of the series, the First Purge should be largely satisfying.