The First Purge is based on a couple of silly ideas: one that the population of the United States is to high, and the other that people want to get into dangerous situations and break all laws because they can get away with out punishment during a specific night. It’s like a sales tax free weekend but in this over the top proposal, murder, robbery and rape are all forgiven.
Why was Staten Island in New York chosen as the first location, is a question that is not answered, but we learn from the so-called chief-of-staff (Patch Darragh) and through just watching the characters that the target is to reduce the minority population. Did anyone do research about Staten Island ? If they had just looked at the last federal census it would have revealed the population is 75% white and 11% black. But in this film nearly everyone in the streets and living on the island look African American or are at least people of color.
The damage comes quickly as the 12 hour program begins. Dmitri (Y’lan Noel) is the leader of the good bad gang because.he only deals drugs and makes great money. He has opposition from the bad bad gang who quickly send out two attractive ladies to do away with Dmitri. It gives us a look at how powerful and smart a leader he is. A short time later his opponents are early victims of the deadly night.
Some how Marisa Tomei is the architect of the Purge plan. She is a social scientists who is looking for a pattern which may emerge from the actions of the crowd on the island. Each person has the opportunity to leave but if they stay up to $5000 is their reward. Of course they may end up dead. As the direction of the night begins the plan does not form as expected. Tomei’s Dr Update begins to look toward what may be a failure of the initial planned results, but the chief of staff is determined to make the proposal work. That leads to an infusion of paid military like folks infused on to the island to force the results the new unusual President wants.
The process which is used to clear participants in the program appears flawed, they are scheduled to pass a screening, but Skeletor (Rotimi Paul) who displays strange dangerous attitudes early on is cleared. He receives his little box kit which contains eye covers that film everything each participant sees during the overnight period. Skeletor gets into everyone’s way as the film moves on, he’s unstable enough to mess up everyone’s plans. The eye treatments glow in the dark and present each participant with a glowing gaze as they move around in the night. That is the best use of effects in the film.
It all falls too easily with guns dropped at just the right time, and folks moving toward a high-rise building for a climax with the mercenaries who have far more fire power than the huddled masses living and hiding in their apartments.
What we see is just an excuse for a bloody series of events along with more mayhem in the high-rise just before the sun comes up.