It’s sometime in the future. The First Purge, the fourth in the series, shows how the idea began of having 12 hours in which it is legal to commit all crimes, including murder. A new right-wing party called the New Founding Fathers (NFF) initiates the concept supposedly to allow people to release frustrations building up from everyday life. Staten Island is chosen as the test site for the first purge. Ultimately, NFF’s true motive comes to light.
The First Purge is sickening. And, similar to Book Club, The First Purge is Dead on Arrival. The problems are many. First, it assumes that viewers don’t know much about Staten Island, including that its population is almost 80% percent white, mainly Irish and Italian Catholics. This film focuses on a low-income housing development and the surrounding communities which are black, who comprise about 10% of the Island’s population. There are more Hispanics in Staten Island than there are blacks. If this community did exist it would include whites and Hispanics.
Next, white screenwriter, James DeMonaco, who’s from Brooklyn, obviously did little research, as he creates scenes and dialogue based upon how he believes black people act. The film opens with a conversation between a blue-eyed, intellectual, medical male staff person and a dark-skinned, scared face, inarticulate black man with badly stained teeth.
It’s loaded with stereotypes. There’s a lot of the N-word, black street gangs (which is NOT a huge issue in Staten Island), heavy drug dealing, and hoochie mamas. And during the purge, again when all crimes are legal, rather than finding safe havens, they show black people dancing in the streets and partying. Since sex is the only thing black people ever think about, the film features a couple in plain sight, getting busy on the top of a car.
Further, in DeMonaco’s black world, even the most decent, peace-loving African American woman, is familiar with and knows how to use a gun!
Even though the film ultimately shows this community is the victim of malevolent forces, the way it is displayed, it justifies the disdain and fear of low-income urban residents that some people harbor.
The First Purge gets a “C” for cast diversity. It’s a largely African American troupe. Marisa Tomei is one of the few white actors in the film. She plays the sociologist who originally comes up with the purge idea. The film’s grade reflects its misrepresentation of the demographics of story’s location.
There are two characteristics of bad films. Both occurred at the screening of The First Purge: viewers laugh at serious dialogue not all intended to be funny. And people leave before it’s over.
The First Purge is rated “R” for strong disturbing violence throughout, pervasive language, some sexuality and drug use. And is 99 minutes in length.
This 4th of July week, purge your mind of any notions of seeing The First Purge.