“The First Purge”
“The First Purge,” a prequel to the prior three “Purge” films, captures the present political climate in our country better than any other movie released in the past several years. While I must confess that I really liked the first three films, this movie tells the story of an American president who legally creates a 12-hour window in Staten Island, New York, where crime doesn’t exist. In other words, from midnight to noon on a specific day, murder, arson and any other mayhem is considered legal. The policy was designed to reduce America’s crime rate by eliminating ethnic and lower economic classes who are most identified with violating the law.
While this program was allegedly an experiment to test the results, it was obviously aimed at African-Americans, immigrants and ethnic minorities populating Staten Island. It created a cover where government officials, almost all of them white, were able to pretend to be local residents. Furthermore, the government interviewed and paid many Staten Island residents who were trying to escape feelings of hatred and anxiety by becoming participants in the purge.
The first three Purge films involved a law that now covered the entire country. The first film, which starred Ethan Hawke, described in detail how innocent families could become prey to hordes of bitter, sadistic avenging angels.
“The First Purge” contains some great acting centered on largely unknown performers. While Marisa Tomei is confined to a small role as the Purge’s architect filled with regret, Y’lan Noel and Lex Scott Davis stand out as a drug dealer rediscovering meaning and a spokeswoman facing certain death for her public opposition to the hateful governmental program. Swirling in a miasma of violence and profanity, it tells a story of exploiting ethnic hatred that resonates today.
In watching this film, it is impossible not to compare it to President Trump’s attempts to paint both Muslim and Hispanic immigrants as a threat to our society. Along with attempting to ban Muslims from entering this country, he has no problem with separating children from their parents at our southern border. In doing so, he is consciously promoting a sinister hatred of these people as being nothing more than a threat to our national security.
“The First Purge” director Gerard McMurray takes Trump’s position one step further. In attempting to make America great again, the president, who leads a political party known as the New Founding Fathers of America, wants to do so by authorizing the killing of those thought to be a threat to our national way of life. For any of you shaking your head at the comparison, I urge you to think of the millions of Germans who supported Hitler’s anti-Semitic program that evolved into extermination camps. If we stand by and do nothing, what nightmare waits for us down the road?
“Sorry to Bother You”
If my review of “Sorry to Bother You” was limited to one sentence, I would say with utmost confidence that you will never see a more creative, provocative film. It is a movie filled with so many twists and turns that it creates the feeling that you are on a roller coaster where you can do little more than simply raise your arms and enjoy the ride.
This is the first film directed and written by Boots Riley, and it focuses on Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield), a poor Oakland resident trying to find a way to make a living. Living with his artist girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson) in a converted garage that he rents from his uncle, Cassius takes a job as a telemarketer. From that moment, this movie takes off with the same force as a Cape Canaveral rocket heading to the moon.
While Cassius follows the only rule laid down to employees, “Stick to the script,” he does so without any success. This changes when Langston (a memorable Danny Glover), a colleague sitting in the next booth, informs him that he can’t have any chance of making a sale unless he uses his “white voice.” With the actor David Cross dubbing Cassius’s white voice, he hits the motherload, where he quickly begins to climb the corporate ladder.
That ladder is actually a golden elevator, where Cassius is first given crazed advice from an attendant with the great name of Diana DeBauchery, a magnificent Kate Berlant in a very small role. He then falls under the guidance and control of Mr. ___ (Blank, Omari Hardwick), a completely amoral business leader whose only concern is the quickest way to make a buck.
What happens from that point on is impossible to reveal without ruining the film for all of you. Let me just say that it becomes a horror movie when the company’s founder, Steve Lift (an unforgettable Armie Hammer) reveals a diabolical chemical plan to get humans to work more effectively and cheaply. To that extent, it resembles the surprise that hit you towards the end of last year’s surprise hit Get Out.
The strength of this film centers on the challenges faced by many workers seeking financial success while simultaneously wanting to help their fellow workers struggling to survive. As his co-workers, led by Steven Yeun as Squeeze and Jermaine Fowler as Salvador, lead a work stoppage where the company uses brutal force to get its high rollers into the office building, Cassius is confronted with the choice of staying with his friends or abandoning them in favor of the golden egg that has been placed in his lap.
At the center of all of this exploding chaos is Tessa Thompson’s performance as Detroit, an artist whose love for Cassius is threatened by his apparent decision to pursue wealth rather than join the fight of workers to unionize. As demonstrated by her prior sterling performances in “Dear White People” (2014), “Selma” (2014), “Creed” (2015) and last year’s “Thor: Ragnarok,” this is an actress that brings a magnetic force to the screen. Here, wait until you see one of her first scenes where she is wearing a T-shirt that is emblazoned with the phrase, “THE FUTURE IS FEMALE EJACULATION.”
This film hits a lot of buttons, some of which will make you uncomfortable. It’s what makes falling in love with a nasty paramour a memorable trip.•
Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis. When he is not in the courtroom or the office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters watching and preparing to review the latest films. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.