The early reviews for The First Purge are in, and critical reception so far is decidedly mixed.
With a 49 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes, the prequel to the action horror franchise has split critics down the middle. While positive reviews praise the unabashed B-movie sensibilities with political undertones that has made the franchise a hit, the negative reviews cite an incoherent plot and exploitative ultra-violence as key factors for a weak final product.
Here's a selection of reviews about the fourth installment in the series:
David Fear, Rolling Stone: "Who needs a coherent text when you’ve got all this American carnage to watch? The First Purge isn’t the beginning of the end of the franchise, just the start of where the narrative’s 'civility' starts to erode and where that leads. You’re always aware that you’re watching a B-movie narrative. You have to keep reminding yourself that it’s a work of fiction."
Todd Gilchrist, Bloody Disgusting: "This fourth installment, a prequel designed to explain the origins of the series, feels like a culmination of its consistently undercooked social commentary, as low-income people of color are used as test subjects, and eventually, literal cannon fodder for Trump supporters’ wildest racist fantasies in a thriller that somehow serves as an equal-opportunity offender without managing to entertain anyone."
Don Kaye, Den of Geek: "The picture is also robbed of is any sense of humanity or responsibility: already on thin ice thematically, this series hits a shabby, shallow bottom here, pitting stock characters we don’t care about against each other and a sinister bureaucracy in a way that ensures they do the dumbest things possible at all times to move the story forward."
Owen Gleiberman, Variety: "Get Out was a thriller with a devious texture, rooted in social and psychological experience. The First Purge is a slipshod dystopian pulp comic book rooted in gangbanger clichés. It’s a threadbare Boyz N the Hood meets Lord of the Flies.”
John DeFore, The Hollywood Reporter: "Gerard McMurray's The First Purge still fails to establish a persuasive connection to our own moment in time — its occasional winks to current events serving as limp zingers instead of stinging commentary. Though its action and few novel elements may satisfy many of those who're willing to pay for a fourth visit to this unconvincing dystopia, series creator James DeMonaco (serving only as screenwriter here) appears to be running out of ideas for the franchise."
Scott Mendelson, Forbes: "The First Purge is an unapologetically racially-tinged 'us versus them' political actioner. It offers both an unexpected optimism and a grim acknowledgment in our current times while coating its fire-and-brimstone content within the protective cover of an established 'general audiences' franchise. It, like every Purge sequel, feels a bit episodic in its second half, but it also plays like a more coherent feature than Election Year, which (entertainment value notwithstanding) occasionally played like the Halloween Horror Nights Purge exhibit."
Jeannette Catsoulis, New York Times: "Even the most ardent fan could find its bluntness uncomfortably timely: In our build-that-wall moment, a story about a government-sponsored plan to cull poor minorities feels less like political satire than current-affairs commentary."
Karen Han, Slash Film: " The good news is that the film, directed by Gerard McMurray, still has some vestiges of what made Anarchy and Election Year so frightening. The first few moments of the Purge are as unsettling as ever, as the horn signaling the start of the night blares out over Staten Island. From there, McMurray takes The First Purge into more conventional horror territory, including a superb bit involving glowing contact lenses that make their wearers look like ghosts, if not completely demonic, and a penchant for extreme close-ups that are rattling and disorienting in a way that works for the film. The bad news is that that grace is otherwise scarce."
Directed by Gerard McMurray from a script by series creator James DeMonaco, The First Purge opens Wednesday.