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The First Purge (2018)

Universal Studios Home Entertainment
4K UHD Released: 10/2/2018

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/3/2018

In my recent review for Solo: A Star Wars Story, I wrote about prequels and how they carry some inherent problems. One of the biggest issues can be a certain lack of suspense. As we've already seen the "sequel" to the "prequel", we know if certain characters will or won't survive. Another example of this conundrum arises on The First Purge. The film shows us that "The Purge" was a one-time experiment that certain parties hoped would be a success. Well, as we've seen the other three movies in the series, we know that "The Purge" continues to be a thing. Therefore, the movie must focus on other things in order to create tension and hold our gaze. Is it able to do this?

In the not-too-distant future, America is on the brink of collapse, as crime and unemployment are out of control. The New Founding Fathers take over the government and Dr. Updale (Marisa Tomei) proposes a radical experiment -- legalize crime for one night and allow citizens to get out all of their pent-up rage. It's decided that the event will take place on Staten Island and to guarantee some results, citizens are offered $5000 to participate. It's on Staten Island that we meet Nya (Lex Scott Davis), who is protesting against "The Purge", and her brother, Isaiah (Joivan Wade), a confused young man who has started selling drugs. Dmitri (Y'lan Noel), a drug-dealer who wields significant powers in the projects, has a soft-spot for Nya and wants to ensure that she's safe. As the sun sets and "The Purge" begins, some locals takes to the streets. But, it will be a group of strangers which truly make the night dangerous.

The Purge series of films may be one of the oddest franchises around today. Debuting in 2013, these movies are based on an incredibly intriguing, arguably ingenious, premise -- In order for society to expel their most base urges, any crime will be legal for a 12-hour period. And, being action-horror movies, those crimes are going to be of a violent nature. The Purge was a classic siege film, where a group was barricaded inside of a house, but the subsequent entries have ventured out into the streets to follow the action. Being Blumhouse productions, the franchise has been highly profitable, with the first entry returning 21X its budget. The First Purge is the most expensive chapter thus far.

And, it's also the most disappointing. Despite the fact that they've continued to make money, the movies are average at best, with 2016's The Purge: Election Year delivering the best story. Other than focusing on the origins of "The Purge" (more on that in a moment), The First Purge has very little to offer. We are introduced to a group of characters, nighttime comes, people run around screaming, and then it's over. The only new addition to the action angle is that participants are wearing contact lenses which not only give their eyes a menacing glow, but also broadcasts their action. Other than that, it's the same old formula of the characters for which we are supposed to be cheering running from assailants in masks. (They never explain where the masks come from.) Not only are the characters here incredibly stereotypical and one-dimensional, but the film will convince those of us who have never been to Staten Island that the entire place is one big slum.

As noted above, one of the central conceits of The First Purge is the question of whether or not "The Purge" will be a success. And, as stated, we, the audience, know that it will. But, the movie keeps hitting this point over and over. This, combined with the lackluster action, makes for a very boring experience. The other films in the series will able to eke out some creepy moments, but we get nothing like that here, and the murder sequences are by-the-numbers. Jason Blum never shies away from politics, and the film is clearly making a point about racism and segregation, but these very timely topics gets lost in the mire of this also-ran movie. It's time to purge all of the old ideas and go with something new.

The First Purge is an odd addition to Marisa Tomei's comeback on 4K UHD courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an HEVC 2160p transfer which runs at an average of 50 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no noticeable grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good and realistic. As with the other films in the series, most of the action takes place at night. These scenes are very well-balanced and things never get too dark. The level of detail is excellent, as we can make out textures on objects. The depth works very well, clearly separating the actors from the backgrounds. The Disc carries a DTS-X audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 7.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is a muscular mix which nicely blends stereo and surround effects to create a real sense of presence. The effects are nicely detailed and we can clearly pick up distinct sounds coming from off-screen. The subwoofer gets a workout from the constant rap music and from the gunshots.

The First Purge 4K UHD contains a few extra features. We get one DELETED SCENE which runs about 2 minutes. "A Radical Experiment" (5 minutes) offers comments from Director Gerard McMurray, Producer Jason Blum, and several members of the cast. The speakers provide an overview of the story and themes, and we get some on-set footage. "Bringing the Chaos" (1 minute) delivers a brief look at the stunts and action sequences. "The Masks of The First Purge" (1 minute) has the folks who we saw the first featurette giving their opinions on the disguises worn by the killers in the film.

Review Copyright 2018 by Mike Long