A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The First Purge is the fourth movie in the popular Purge series -- and the first prequel, showing the beginning of the whole thing. Unsurprisingly, there's a ton of violence: killings, guns and shooting, strangling, stabbing and slashing, blood spurts/sprays, jump scares, and more. A brief but graphic sex scene shows a man's naked bottom thrusting between a woman's legs. Women are objectified, and some appear to be prostitutes. A man tries to grab a woman against her will. Language includes many uses of "f--k," "motherf----r," "s--t," the "N" word, and more. A main character, supposedly a good guy, is a drug dealer. There are brief scenes of drinking and drug use, as well as references to addiction. Despite the subject matter, audiences craving smart, sophisticated social commentary should look elsewhere.
- Parents say
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What's the story?
In THE FIRST PURGE, a brand-new political party, the New Founding Fathers of America, ascends to power, promising prosperity. One of their big ideas, spawned by sociologist Dr. May Updale (Marisa Tomei), is a 12-hour period in which all crime will be legal. Citizens will get out their aggressions and be fine the rest of the year. This "purge" is tested on Staten Island, where the population is generally below middle-class. Drug lord Dmitri (Y'lan Noel) doesn't trust the purge, while his ex-girlfriend, Nya (Lex Scott Davis), protests in the streets. Her younger brother, Isaiah (Joivan Wade), who's begun dealing drugs, secretly wants to participate in the purge; he was attacked and cut by the psychotic Skeletor (Rotimi Paul) and wants revenge. When the purge eventually begins, very little goes as expected -- but the night quickly turns deadly.
Is it any good?
The fourth movie in this popular series is perhaps the worst, with amateurish filmmaking and too many movie clichés combining to betray its attempts at serious social commentary and satire. Like the other movies in the series -- The Purge, The Purge: Anarchy, and The Purge Election Year -- this one tries, and fails, to place its idea within a larger national context. The First Purge begins with awkward, thinly written political speeches and news coverage of the event, all of which serve to cheapen it. (It's especially painful to watch Oscar-winner Tomei struggle through her awful dialogue.)
The main characters are likable enough, if you can forget for a moment that Dmitri is a powerful drug lord who's willing to kill anyone who gets in his way. (The movie shows no awareness of the contradictory nature of this situation.) The most relevant moments are the commentary on unpunished white-on-black violence and sexual assault, as well as frightening references to the KKK, but these things are simple asides, floating above an ocean of mediocrity and exploitative violence. They have no more relevance to the story at hand than does the "psychology" of the purge itself, especially compared to far more sophisticated and effective recent films (Get Out being the most notable example). We can only hope that The First Purge will also be the last.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about The First Purge's violence. Is it necessary to make the movie's point? Do you think the movie celebrates or condemns violence?
What do you think of the idea of the purge? Would it really lower crime and lessen poverty? What are the arguments for and against it?
How does the movie view the rich and the poor? Politicians and regular people? How are these characters shown? With which did you identify? Do you consider any of the characters role models? Why or why not?
- In theaters: July 4, 2018
- On DVD or streaming: October 2, 2018
- Cast: Marisa Tomei, Lex Scott Davis, Y'lan Noel
- Director: Gerard McMurray
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Horror
- Run time: 97 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong disturbing violence throughout, pervasive language, some sexuality and drug use
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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