Do you remember the original "The Purge" (2013) with Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey? It was an entertaining thriller that blended a bit of social commentary with gratuitous violence. At its core was a survivalist theme with a few turns and a couple of nifty betrayals that might have had you shout to the screen..."Kill 'em!"


The film cost Blumhouse Pictures $3 million to produce and returned $64 Million domestically ($89 million globally). Nice profit! Naturally this led to a sequel "The Purge: Anarchy" which increased in production costs to $9 million, but returned $111 million globally. It stayed true to the original without the betrayals, but lots of the survivalist theme.


The third film went headfirst into a socio-political commentary pointed dead at the current presidency. In fact, it went so far to the political editorializing, there was little suspense... you already knew who the bad guys were. There were no betrayals. No unknown foe. No trusted friends turning on each other. Just 105-minutes of bloodshed. Oh, but it made $119 million globally. So let's keep it going...

This latest installment goes against the Blumhouse business model in that it cost more than $13 million to produce; after all Michael Bay is involved. There is a new director with Gerard McMurray taking over from James DeMonaco and Marisa Tomei steps in as the recognizable fading star looking for a decent paycheck. She plays Dr Updale - The Architect of the Purge as an experiment.


The New Founding Fathers of America have recognized that there is too much crime and violence and that people need to release their anger in order to be sane. So under the guidance Dr Updale, the feds have isolated Staten Island as a cool place to see if this night of violence would work. To get the mostly impoverished inhabitants to participate, the government offers them $5000 to go out and have fun... maybe kill someone.


There are only a couple of people who really seem up to it: a drugged out nutjob known as Skeletor (Rotimi Paul) and confused wanna be gangbanger Isaiah (Joivan Wade) who is looked after by his big sister Nya (Lex Scott Davis). Most of the other people who took the money, just want the money. You know, to "stick it to the man."


Another player is the local drug kingpin Dmitri (Y'lan Noel) whose gang is well armed and instructed to protect the dope. Little do they know they will be protecting not the dope, but their customers as an outside entity (government mercenaries) invade the island to stir the pot and kill a bunch of poor folks. They are under the guidance of Arlo Sabien, the chief of staff in the NFFA who is determined to make sure the experiment succeeds.


Oh, how many times have we seen this story? The evil corrupt white man with his own agenda versus the conscientious activist whose brother is getting caught up with the bad element who happened to be her ex-beau! Yeah... that movie. Only with more blood shed.


I guess market research found decided that more African Americans are interested in the Purge, much like more Latinos are more interested in the Paranormal Activity franchise. Um...


"The First Purge" loses all the thriller aspects from the first two films and goes straight to Blaxploitation slaughterfest with a Nino Brown coming to the rescue. Ho hum. Sadly, if it makes money....   -- GRADE C- --   GEOFF BURTON