The following includes SPOILERS for The First Purge and other Purge films.
The First Purge may just be the first proper anti-Trump action movie produced. It's no secret that, despite having built his 21st Century fame by reworking his 1980s image as a quixotically-ruthless businessman in the world of reality television, U.S. President Donald Trump seems to have relatively few fans in the entertainment industry. But despite ongoing vocal opposition to many of his administration's controversial policies by politically-active actors, filmmakers and other Hollywood professionals, few major films have taken direct thematic aim at the modern state of American politics apart from one-off jokes, oblique references or plot-points that likely only required minor tweaks to make them more (or less?) relevant than they would've been otherwise.
That streak appears ended, appropriately enough, as of July 4th with the wide release of The First Purge, a prequel to the moneymaking horror franchise that effectively positions itself as the first real anti-Trump action movie.
Related: Read Our Review Of The First Purge
A dystopian near (alternate) future bloodbath depicting a citizen resistance against the machinations of a hostile fascist government that has seized control of the United States, it frames its villains, heroes and their respective ideological-alignments as explicit, unmistakable parallels to supporters and opponents of the current American Presidential regime. Moreover, it seems to suggest that the world of The Purge - a state-endorsed "holiday" where all crime including murder is legalized for 12 hours - is something like what's waiting for the real world.
- This Page: How The First Purge Uses Trump As Inspiration
- Page 2: What The Purge's Trump Evolution Really Means
MAKE AMERICA PURGE AGAIN
In the practical sense, it's not too surprising that it took just over 500 days of a Presidency even as unprecedentedly controversial as Trump's to generate a cinematic rebuke of this type. Outrage is immediate but moviemaking takes time and, as a result, politically-themed films often aim to tackle longstanding "big issues" or try to anticipate where the world will be - often to mixed results. Last year's Jessica Chastain anti-gun legal thriller Miss Sloane was noted by many to have felt written in anticipation of reflecting the realities of a presumed Hillary Clinton Administration, while the Dave Bautista action film Bushwick imagined a diverse Brooklyn neighborhood fighting off invasion by Texas after the Lone Star State secedes from the "liberal" U.S. Even the previous Purge movie, Election Year, directly paralleled the 2016 Clinton/Trump election for its storyline... but assumed a different ending than the one reality delivered months later.
That may or may not be why The First Purge takes the prequel route (the other reason, as those who stick around through the credits will discover, is to set-up a Purge TV series that will take place in mid-continuity), but whatever the impetus the film makes no pretense to playing coy about its inspirations or its message. The early (because it's a prequel) incarnation of the New Founding Fathers government and their tacky propaganda are designed to resemble Trump, Fox News and GOP campaign aesthetics, with paeans to "family values", the Evangelical Right and "restoring" a somehow lost vision of America. We're told that they were put into power by voters frustrated with "both parties" - but they were pushed over the top by support from the NRA and rather than fighting for the economically-disenfranchised their big plan is to manipulate the violence of Purge Night to goad the lower-classes into killing each other off... certain colors of "lower class" specifically.
That's the other place where the film opts to play things right upfront when it comes to message. The idea that the NFFA government is racist (in the White-supremacist flavor) in addition to nondescriptly theocratic has been barely-concealed subtext in all three prior Purge movies (the series has always been political and never subtle about it), but previous installments had featured either White protagonists (the original) or a set of supporting characters of mixed races (The Purge: Anarchy and Election Year).
Not so The First Purge. The protagonists are all Black and Latino residents of locked-down Staten Island neighborhood where the trial-run Purge experiment is being staged, the government-backed murder squads they find themselves battling include Klansmen, White-nationalists and Blackwater-style mercenaries - at one point, an unnamed gang in white polo shirts bearing torches and "Alt-Right" symbol-shields even make an appearance.