July 2018


the-first-purge-pg4_advance1sheet_rgb_2_rgb-720x1140I haven’t kept up with The Purge movies. I saw the first one and didn’t really care for it. It took what on the surface was a great idea and then inexplicably turned it into a fairly dull home invasion movie with some social commentary thrown in. Why narrow the focus so much? It didn’t make sense. The two sequels passed me by. They have, however, made a ton of cash. So what do I know?

The First Purge isn’t so much a prequel to the Purge series as it is a sequel to Get Out. There are bits of The Raid in here. There are bits of Attack the Block. The end is basically Die Hard. Written by James DeMonaco, who has written and directed all previous installments, and directed by Gerard McMurray, this is the movie that the first Purge probably should’ve been.To push crime rates below 1% and restore the economy, the New Founding Fathers of America have declared an experiment that’ll Make America Great Again. Honestly, it doesn’t make a huge amount of sense. It never has.

In Staten Island, for 12 hours, no crime will be punishable up to an including murder, and participants will be rewarded with $5,000. This largely black and latino community, while concerned about the implications, are more interested in throwing street parties for the event than they are killing each other, which forces the NFFA to take matters into their own hands.

We see the story through the eyes of local drug king-pin D’mitri (Insecure’s Y’lan Noel), his ex-girlfriend Nya (Lex Scott Davis), and her brother Isaiah (Jovian Wade) and the main urban villain of the piece Skeletor (Rotimi Paul) who is quite happy to kill as many people as he possibly can with syringes attached to his hand a la Freddie Krueger.

The action is beautifully choreographed and shot and the violence is visceral and brutal at times, but seldom has brutality been staged so perfectly. I’m honestly struggling to think of an American movie that presented its violence in a more artistically satisfying manner. I guess my main problem was I just didn’t care too much if the drug baron lived or died.

It doesn’t take much to see the satire and social commentary of life in the US in 2018. There are allusions to Dylann Roof’s Charleston massacre. There are things that are eerily similar to the events in Charlottesville. You’ll no doubt see things that remind you of the Black Lives Matter movement. There’s even a pussy that is in very real danger of being grabbed. There’s a red cap version of the poster. The movie does nothing to shy away from these comparisons, rather it shoves it right in your face and perhaps it does it a little too forcefully.

Advertisements

tagThe first thing you see when Tag starts is a bold note insisting that what you are about to watch is based on true events. Knowing the rough idea of the movie from the trailer, I assumed that I was going to think quite uncharitably of these men-children who have spent the last thirty years refusing to grow up.

For those unfamiliar with the trailer, or the WSJ article behind it, the story is about a group of five grown men who have been playing the same game of Tag for the last thirty years, since they were children. The logistics of this are pretty impractical so the rules are simplified so that the game only runs for the month of May with whoever is It at midnight on June 1 is, oh I dunno, whoever that is has the jobby touch for a year.

Ed Helms plays Hoagie and when we first see him, he’s applying for a janitorial job in a fancy insurance company despite being hugely over-qualified. He gets the job and then we next see him in disguise outside the office of CEO Bob Callahan (Jon Hamm) who is being interviewed by WSJ journalist Rebecca (Annabelle Wallis). I think we’re supposed to think Hoagie is going to assassinate Bob but nope, he Tags him and now Bob is It.

As ridiculous as this is, writers Rob McKittrick and Mark Steilen up the ante and have Hoagie explain to Bob that Jerry is retiring from the game and has never been tagged. Ever. So Hoagie is rounding up the gang to head back to Jerry’s hometown for his wedding and finally lay a hand on the scoundrel. With Bob and an intrigued Rebecca in tow, we soon pick up stoner Chilli (Jake Johnson) and Kevin Sable (Hannibal Buress) and we see the unbelievable lengths these people will go to avoid being Tagged. Fire extinguisher to the chest, f’rinstance. Multiple punches to ass cheeks.

In his directorial debut, Jeff Tomsic does a pretty great job of moving things along with a script that restricts the characters within their particular quirks, but distributes quirky lines through them all to keep them all interesting, particularly Sable. Plus, Isla Fisher as Hoagie’s borderline psychotic wife, is an incredible if somewhat furious package. There’s a side-story with a hottie from school who is a potential love interest for a couple of members in the gang that doesn’t go anywhere — certainly nowhere interesting — but other than that, the story is pretty lean.

Is it funny, then? Well, I chuckled a few times. I was laughing silently on the inside on a few more occasions. It was fun. I found the 100 minute running time passed smoothly enough, but it was a movie that for long spells I felt I was more consciously observing from a position of curiosity rather than out and out enjoyment. For example, I spent a lot of time wondering about the fun of Jerry never being tagged, as it meant as a consequence he also had never been the tagger, missing out on a half of the game. He had never been It.

All that said, I came out feeling more positive about the participants than I did going in. Particularly in the final act, the movie develops a bit of a heart and the closing sequence with footage of the actual men who participated in this in real life, got me in the feels a wee bit, and almost coaxed a wee tear to this jaded eye.