October 1, 2018  (Web Review)

The First Purge

Universal, 98 min., R, DVD: $24.99, Blu-ray/DVD Combo: $36.99, Oct. 2

Reviewer rating: 2.0/4

This exploitative prequel introduces an NRA-backed third political party, New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA), whose spokesman becomes the nation’s president in the dystopian near-future. Looking for a way to curb out-of-control crime and burn off sociopathic anger, the government adopts a ritual theorized by Dr. May Updale (Marisa Tomei), which postulates that giving people a temporary free pass to do whatever they want for one night will encourage lawful behavior during the rest of the year. Choosing a densely populated, yet easily isolated place—New York’s self-contained Staten Island—this implausible, aggression-releasing experiment becomes a 12-hour bloodbath. The protagonists here include Dmitri (Y’lan Noel), a skeptical drug kingpin who plans to take cover and stay there, and his onetime girlfriend Nya (Lex Scott Davis), a community activist who is aware that civility is at stake and joins her resistance neighbors in church. And Nya’s younger brother, Isaiah (Joivan Wade), views the pilot program as an opportunity to settle scores with Skeletor (Rotimi Paul), a psychopathic bully. To encourage murder and mayhem, NFFA officials offer $5,000 to enthusiastic mercenaries, along with contact-lens video-cameras to record their depravity. Meant to be a satirical origin story (this is actually the fourth film in The Purge franchise), this action-horror-thriller haphazardly directed by Gerard McMurray is an optional purchase. [Note: DVD/Blu-ray extras include the behind-the-scenes featurettes “A Radical Experiment” (5 min.), “Bringing the Chaos” (2 min.), and “The Masks of The First Purge” (2 min.), as well as a deleted scene (2 min.). Exclusive to the Blu-ray release are bonus DVD and digital copies of the film. Bottom line: a small extras package for an unremarkable horror thriller.] (S. Granger)