THE FIRST PURGE – movie review


Universal Pictures
Reviewed by: Harvey Karten
Director:  Gerard McMurray
Screenwriter:  James DeMonaco
Cast:  Marisa Tomei, Lex Scott Davis, Luna Lauren Velez, Melonie Diaz, Y’lan Noel, Mo McRae, Steve Harris
Screened at: AMC Empire, NYC, 7/2/18
Opens: July 4, 2018
In his sophomore feature as director, Gerard McMurray gives us “The First Purge,” a better title being “The Shooting Gallery.”  Let’s hope this “First Purge” is the last.  The real first “Purge” took place in 2013 in the more interesting movie directed by James DeMonaco, since that one at least had a plot—involving a wealthy family held hostage for sheltering the target of a murderous syndicate.  This time, using James DeMonaco’s script, the action blockbuster features dialogue that utilizes half the country’s clichés with not a single syllable of originality, of nuance, even of substance.

Here’s what passes for talk followed by a potential audience response:

“I’ve see a lot of stupid shit.”

Reaction:  We have too.

“It’s been a long night.”

Reaction:  Yes it has.

“What’s going on?  I’m so confused.

Reaction:  You fill in the blanks.

Though Marisa Tomei is listed on some programs as the lead, she is wasted here, or perhaps after watching what’s going on, she became wasted.

Just like in 2013 when the government declared a 12-hour period once a year to allow people to let off steam in any way they want, the administration is led by a new political party called New Founding Fathers or NFFA.  To allow people now to let loose, instead of declaring a nationwide hunting season for the 12 hour period, all is confined to Staten Island, New York, where the administration’s real goal is to decimate the mostly African-American population living in low income housing.

To coax the folks in the projects to hang around in Staten Island rather than flee to other boroughs, NFFA President Bracken (Ian Blackman) through his chief of staff Arlo Sabian (Patch Darragh) offers $5,000 to anyone remaining, implanting in each volunteer a tracking device which is supposed to act as check to make sure the people are participating, but is actually used for a government militia to wipe them out.  Soon men in KKK masks, gas masks, and other wartime attire are smashing down doors in the projects, gunning down residents right and left, while the men and women under the leadership of Dimitri (Y’lan Noel), a drug dealer, push back with knives, machine guns, fists and strangulations.  After realizing what the government really has in mind, Dr. Updale (Marisa Tomei), aka “The Architect,” remarks “What have I done!” to the amused movie audience making that line the principal example of unintended humor.

Unless you like to see flame throwers barbecuing people, knives drawing heaps of blood, guns used on both sides, and the usual hand-to-hand combat of the sort that you never know what’s going on because of rapid editing, you will conclude that this “Purge” has no redeeming features.

Rated R.  99 minutes.  © 2018 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – D
Acting – D-
Technical – C
Overall – D

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