The Purge series is as timely as ever yet it still struggles to get its political messages across
All of the Purge movies start with a great concept. America has hit rock bottom and a new political party, by the name of the New Founding Fathers of America or NFFA, has promised to fix all of the nation’s problem with one simple night. However, the series has continue to struggle in how to portray such political allegory. The First Purge struggles even though it so perfectly understands Trump’s America.
The latest Purge movie starts from the very beginning exploring how the controversial night has become such a popular nation-wide event. We follow anti-Purge activist Nya played by Lex Scott Davis and her brother Isasiah played by Joivan Wade through the now very first “Purge.” This sociological and psychological experiment is said to relieve people of criminal behavior and will be held on Staten Island.
For the rest of the film, it follows what we’ve come to expect from the Purge movies: a violent action-horror hybrid. However, there’s something to be said about it’s political view of America and what the future holds for it, especially for minorities. As we follow our black sister and brother duo, we meet a latina mother and daughter all of whom are more prone to be hurt during this night. Nya yells that the purge “is just another scheme to marginalize black and brown people” at a rally and that seems to be the film’s thesis statement throughout.
Unfortunately, it has a tough time getting it’s message through. Its bare minimum plot and under written characters just don’t make for a compelling movie to watch for almost 2 hours. Its daring concept is one of pure genius but The First Purge doesn’t do enough to warrant it. There’s endless possibilities surrounding this night and how it mirrors the current political climate. But further than that, there’s possibilities to talk about human nature, classism, racism, sexism, heretosexism and much much more. It’s just not on the minds of the creators.
However, one person is definitely on their minds: President Trump. A not-so-subtle jab at Trump is shown when our main character Nya meets a baby-masked wearing guy trying to grab her vagina to which she screams ”Pussy grabber.” It may be an uneasy moment of realization that the events witnessed may come true much like the election of Trump. But it’s done in such an obnoxiously unsubtle manner that it just takes away from the moment of it all. Even worst is that this isn’t the only of its kind. Plenty more on-the-nose imageries are inserted into the mix of the action with minimal impact.
For better or for worst, the Purge series seems more preoccupied in violence and gore as means to show its distaste in the world its created. But like so many other films, the old saying “do as I say not as I do” can sometimes create mixed messaging for the audience. It’s a popular reason for lovers of The Purge to go see the movies only for the deaths and gore. For those types of movie-goers, The First Purge may disappoint simply because there’s substantially less blood loss and creative deaths.
The First Purge lives in an awkward place where it wants to give a strong political message while still pleasing gore fans but ends up pleasing neither. It’s jabs at Trump and America as a whole often lack subtlety and our main characters are greatly underwritten. The redeeming quality of this sequel lies in it’s social commentary on minorities and governmental decisions. It’s such an unseen story in Hollywood that it’s a shame that it’s not done better.
The First Purge is now in theatres.