Rating (2.0 out of 5)
Summary: The new movie on HBO last week, “First Purge”, takes a while to develop but then the pace improves. The movie is broken into 1/3s. 30-minutes of setup, 30-minutes in the street and 30 minutes in the tower. My main issue with the film is I didn’t form an attachment to any of the characters. And of course, the hero is able to defeat the dozens of mercenaries single-handedly. While the concept is imaginary, the movie lacks a certain realism and the plot surrounding the concept is poorly framed. I would pass on “First Purge”.
Plot: Staten Island, NY is chosen as the experiment site for the First Purge. A 12 hour period in which there are no laws. Residents have been offered $5,000 to participate and GPS tagged.
Detail: The movie lacked a clear villain. There are plenty of bad people to kill, but who is the true one person our hero needs to defeat. Is it the Chief of Staff – Arlo Sabian (Patch Darragh)? But he is safe and sound in the control room. Probably the crazed mercenary leader we see in the towers at the end of the film would have been an excellent villain. But the mercenary leader is revealed later in the tower, and we really needed the reveal earlier. The lack of a clear villain reveals the weakness of the script.
A poorly structured script hurt “First Purge”. Skeletor (Rotimi Paul) is a key character driving Isaiah (Joivan Wade) but suddenly vanishes. He materializes in the end, but only as a tool to allow the hero Dmitri (Y’lan Noel) to win the day. An underutilized character and oddly placed in the movie.
The absurd utilization of mercenaries to purge the residents left me puzzled. News crews would have had people on the island secretly filming the purge and would have noticed these men. If crews weren’t present, they would have cameras, their own drones, or other surveillance devices. At a minimum, the residents would have captured video on phones and photograph the mercenaries to provide to the papers the next day. The lack of underlying realism made the whole premise of the government orchestrating the event extremely silly.
Even the scene where the drones kill most of Dmitri’s gang felt unrealistic. No one tried to shoot them down earlier, or more of them couldn’t escape.
The film requires an unnecessarily large amount of time building up to the purge. The director tried creating an emotional attachment to the main characters Nya (Lex Scott Davis), Isaiah and Dmitri. Without a clear background about them, I didn’t care. The film concentrates on Isaiah’s motivations to earn money and kill Skeletor. Isaiah is pushed to the background in the end and Dmitri becomes the hero. The lack of clarity confused me. The writer must have had 2 or three concepts and strung those concepts the best they could. Realizing they ran short on time, extended scenes at the beginning.
The contact lenses that were video cameras issued by the government glowed at night and worn by the participants gave them an inhuman appearance. The lenses increased Skeletor’s psycho meter significantly.
The action scenes were well done. The fight in the tower when Dmitri killed the mercenaries was the action I expected in the rest of the film. The movie never establishes how Dmitri obtains his mad killings skills and his heroic efforts seemed unrealistic.