How did the United States reach a point where murder was viewed as an acceptable solution to the country’s problems? This question is at the heart of The First Purge, the fourth film in the Purge film series, which documents the origin of the Purge Night concept.
In The First Purge, ground zero is Staten Island, New York, a borough that is chosen as an experimental test location by the authoritarian New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA). As this is an origin film, the mystery in the film is related to just how far the NFFA is willing to go to make this first Purge Night a success.
Although the film reveals the conversations and thoughts behind the Purge concept, the bulk of the film follows the structure of the previous films. As the commencement of Purge Night nears, the residents must decide whether they will hide from the legalized carnage that’s about to unfold, or participate in it. The most interesting aspect of The First Purge is the socio-economic and racial dynamic that exists in the film. Whereas political and social commentary have always been embedded within the fabric of the Purge film series, The First Purge draws a clear parallel between the fictional NFFA administration and the Donald Trump administration.
All of the residents in the film, both the participants and the victims, are black, whereas all of the NFFA officials are white. As the President of the United States who appears in the film is clearly in the mold of Donald Trump, the filmmakers are clearly suggesting that the Trump administration is fundamentally corrupt and that anyone who supports the current administration is in concert with oppression and tyranny.
While the political commentary in The First Purge is heavy-handed, it doesn’t take the focus off of the visceral aspects of the film. Director Gerard McMurray and producer-writer James DeMonaco counterbalance interpersonal relationships and situations with sudden burst of violence.
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment has given The First Purge modest treatment, in terms of the special features that appear on the Blu-Ray/DVD combo release. It would have been nice to have listened to an audio commentary by DeMonaco and Gerard McMurray and hear them explain the thought process that went into the making of the film, especially in terms of the film’s political message.
The special features section includes a single deleted scene and three short making-of documentaries, one of which, The Masks of the First Purge, showcases the gallery of odd Purge masks that appear in the film. In the documentaries Bringing the Chaos and A Radical Experiment, the cast and filmmakers briefly discuss the filming process and share their thoughts about the parallels between the fictional Purge universe and present-day America.
For Purge loyalists, The First Purge represents a worthwhile addition to their collection, while the casual viewer will only need to watch this film once. Like the other Purge films, The First Purge will almost certainly become a fixture on cable television within eighteen months.