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Film / The First Purge

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Every bloodbath has a beginning.
"What makes America great? The answer's simple, really. Americans make America great. You are the lifeblood of the nation and your rights as Americans must be safeguarded. There is only one solution to keep our country great - a new tradition. Participate today and nothing will make you prouder than when your boy looks up at you and says, 'Dad, I wanna purge too!'"

The First Purge is a 2018 American social science fiction action horror film directed by Gerald McMurray and written by James DeMonaco. It is a prequel to The Purge, and the fourth entry in Purge franchise. It has an entirely different cast from the previous three films, which include Y'Lan Noel, Lex Scott Davis, Joivan Wade, Luna Lauren Valez and Marisa Tomei. It was released on July 4, 2018.

To push the crime rate below one percent for the rest of the year, the New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA) test a sociological theory that vents aggression for one night in one isolated community. But when the violence of oppressors meets the rage of the marginalized, the contagion will explode from the trial-city borders and spread across the nation.

Previews: Teaser, Trailer.

The First Purge contains examples of:

  • Actor Allusion: Marisa Tomei plays a character named May.
  • Always a Bigger Fish: Just as the militia is about to wipe out Dmitri and all the other remaining survivors in the apartment building, Skeletor arrives out of nowhere and starts slaughtering them with a machete. (He only manages to take out two or three before he's killed, but it buys Dmitri enough time to retaliate.)
  • Amicable Exes: Dimitri and Nya, although the latter still voices her disapproval at his way of life, which was the reason of their breakup.
  • Anachronism Stew: The majority of the film is set in 2016, a year before the first annual Purge, yet a one-sheet of Halloween (2018) is displayed in Isaiah's room.
  • Anti-Hero: Dimitri is a gang leader and drug lord, but despite being a thug in general, he won't hesitate to stand up to some murderers in his streets.
  • Artistic License – Statistics: The experiment is rather flawed in both its setup and how its conducted, considering the context of the topic at hand.
    • Two issues with its setup: 1) The rules of the experiment are announced to everyone beforehand, and 2) Its voluntary participation with a relatively significant sum of money paid per participant. By doing it this way, participants would consist of a disproportionately high percentage of people who are financially desperate, lower social class, or simply unmotivated otherwise: "I get paid more than a month's wage for just 12 hours of staying in a place with no laws in effect? Why not?". In other words, a poor sampling for a sociological/psychological experiment representing an entire country's population.
    • The conducting of the experiment is also problematic. Participants may be encouraged to break the law with the awareness that they are allowed to do so within a specific timeframe, but the presence of conspicuous monitoring devices can actually make participants subconsciously or even consciously alter their own behavior, also known as the Hawthorne Effect. Do researchers not realize that many participants can still be hesitant to "purge" just because of the conspicuous monitoring devices close to them?
  • AstroTurf: Citizens do not naturally start purging to sufficient degrees, the government finds out, but since they need it to happen they recruit mercenaries to start killing people to make the experiment look like a success.
  • Ax-Crazy: Skeletor is absolutely nuts, and would probably have killed someone even without the Purge, assuming he hasn't done so already.
  • Big Bad: The NFFA, in this case represented by Chief of Staff Arlo Sabian, start the Purge and thus the films' conflict.
  • Big Bad Wannabe: Skeletor never tries to hide the fact that he is an unstable, fucked up psychopath and states out loud his intention to kill everyone. And to his credit, he has the Purge's first kills to back it up. However, he promptly gets his ass kicked by an inexperienced young man, fails to catch him, and eventually gets mowed down by the armed mercenaries.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Dmitri storms the apartment complex on his own to take out the mercenaries sent to kill everyone.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Main Characters survive the night, but hundreds of innocents were senselessly murdered and the Purge will inevitably continue for years to come.
  • Bookends: Not in the film itself, but applies to the series. The Purge was created by a blonde-haired, white woman. It would eventually also be stopped by a blonde-haired, white woman.
  • The Cameo: Journalist and political commentator Van Jones As Himself interviewing Sabian and Dr. Updale.
  • Covers Always Lie: Nowhere in the film does the person on the poster actually appear.
  • "Die Hard" on an X: The film as a whole becomes Die Hard on Staten Island once the mercenaries arrive and start killing everyone, and the climax is Die Hard in an apartment project. Compound that with Dmitri wearing a tank top while taking the invaders on.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Nya and Isaiah return to the church where the other pacifist experiment participants are hiding in...except that everyone in there has perished at the hands of the mercenaries the NFFA deployed, something that bears very stark similarities to the Charleston church shooting in 2015...
  • False Flag Operation: The NFFA send in death squads dressed as gang members to raise the kill count making the Purge look like a success, since the great majority of real citizens are not actually going out and killing each other.
  • Foregone Conclusion: No matter what happens, the film will end with the yearly Purge being instituted as American law, since it's a prequel to the other Purge films.
  • For Science!: The architect of the purge, Dr. Updale, sees the Purge purely from its sociological aspect and reacts badly when the variables are deliberately changed. This gets her killed by the NFFA.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: Updale rejects the NFFA's involvement in the Purge. She gets executed before she can do anything to stop it.
  • Hero of Another Story: After the pre-Purge scenes, the three Wise Men don’t show up until the last hour of the Purge. At that point, they have rallied several younger neighborhood residents and are holed up in a house, armed, and exchanging fire with NFFA mercenaries dressed up like The Klan. One of the Three Wise Men has a fresh cast on his arm, suggesting they have been busy fighting killers throughout the night.
  • Honey Trap: The two prostitutes servicing Dimitri are being paid by his rival to assassinate him.
  • Internal Death Squad: Being given carte blanche to do whatever they want for 12 hours causes many of Staten Island's citizens to get high or have orgies, not slaughter people willy-nilly, except in the cases of a few like Skeletor. This prompted the NFFA to send out death squads.
  • Karma Houdini: Sabian receives absolutely no repercussion for having approved sending out the mercenaries to Staten Island. President Bracken, too, escapes scot-free to hold the Purge for years to come, now directing it to cover the entire United States. As The Purge: Election Year shows us, the Purge would be held uninterrupted for 26 years, long after his term (or terms) in office had been expended.
  • The Klan: KKK purgers appear as minor antagonists in the film. They are later killed by Dmitri.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: A shotgun-wielding store owner is initially prepared to defend his store during Purge night, but steps aside without fighting after being confronted by a mob of armed looters.
  • Monochrome Casting: Justified since Park Hill is an overwhelmingly black neighborhood. Luisa and Selina (Latino) as well as Sabian and Dr. Updale (white) are pretty much the only non-black characters in the movie, if you exclude extras. As a result, the film is the first in the series not to have a single white character on the heroes' side.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Said verbatim by Dr. May Updale when she realizes that what she intended as a truly positive experiment has been used by the government for sinister means.
  • Necessarily Evil: Sabian tries to sell the NFFA's plan to use the Purge to reduce the poverty levels by killing the poor as this. Naturally Dr. Updale doesn't buy it.
  • Plot Armor:
    • Dmitri keeps emerging from (most) violent confrontations unscathed. He himself seems to be aware of this on some level, boasting that he "doesn't know how to die".
    • Skeletor would have probably attracted a lot of bad attention well before the Purge night. Many neighborhood folks who are armed and familiar with him would probably shoot him on sight, especially if they saw he was armed.
  • Promotion to Parent: Nya to Isaiah, after their parents' deaths.
  • Retired Outlaw: Nya looks and acts like a perky social activist, but she used to date the most powerful and feared gang leader of Staten Island. When all breaks loose, she does not hesitate to use her skills if the situation calls it.
  • Rousseau Was Right: Vaguely. The frustrated New Founding Fathers resort to deploying mercenaries and drones when it becomes apparent that, with the exception of Skeletor and a few incidentals like the two Mad Bomber women, most people, even when given the opportunity to do whatever they want without consequence, won't immediately resort to the expected bloodshed and chaos, just things like vandalism or theft (the man shown trying to break open an ATM for example, and those looting stores) or hedonistic partying.
  • Safe Zone Hope Spot: Nya spends several scenes trying to take Isaiah to a church to ride out the night. By the time she gets him back there, mercenaries are killing everyone in sight.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Slasher Smile: Skeletor frequently sports one.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • The writers must have heard feedback about how absurd the franchise's premise was that most people would descend into mindless violence once there's no laws in effect. As shown in this film, the researchers and NFFA politicians were surprised that instead of the expected mass bloodshed, most people were engaging in petty/harmless crimes and hedonistic acts instead. Violent crimes did happen, but its not widespread and many of them are motivated by greed/vengeance (e.g.: armed robberies/holding grudges) rather than the alleged "Purge" mentality (e.g.: Skeletor embracing mindless violence). The NFFA had to deploy mercenaries to increase the level of violence.
    • And oh yes, besides the obvious dangers, anyone scuttering in a place where all sense of decency are thrown out of the window can encounter bizarre events such as for example people having sex on the street, or mean-spirited pranksters who would go as far as pretending to be murderers.
  • Take That!: Much like The Purge: Election Year did, The First Purge takes shots at Donald Trump.
    • The first poster, featuring a red hat with the film's title on it, can clearly be seen as one against Trump's red hats that said 'Make America Great Again'.
    • The very first trailer - edited to very closely resemble a standard political PSA - aired during Trump's first official State of the Union Address.
    • Nya calls a Purger who groped her a "pussy-grabbing motherfucker."
  • Title Drop: A man stated the first murder of the purge: "We believe this is the first purge of the evening."
  • Too Dumb to Live: All the named characters.
    • The smarter gangs would either evacuate or lockdown their neighborhoods, with plans to overtake the remaining rival gang members after the Purge.
    • For every group, as soon as someone got sniped, the people around them would realize its too dangerous to move around, so they would hold up and wait out the clock.
    • The white supremacists would probably attempt to go door-to-door in the neighborhoods, and get wiped out as soon as residents start sniping at them.
    • A lot of groups would get locked in a time consuming stalemate with pretty much any other armed group, and just waste the money they spent buying their ammunition.
    • Society as a whole. Showing someone killed with a knife on tv is not a way to inspire widespread acceptance of the idea of the Purge.
  • Would Hurt a Child: The mercenaries sent by the government attack a church and kill almost the entire congregation, including the children it seems.
  • Wrong Side of the Tracks: Park Hill. It's reason why the Purge was experimented there in the first place.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: The NFFA have Dr. Updale killed when she tries to stop the experiment.

"What have I done?"