The First Purge ★★

I guess the secret to making a 'Purge' movie dumb, gratuitous, semi-woke fun rather than maddeningly obnoxious is to stop dithering with the mush-headed, nonsensical political allegory. Just go ahead and turn the franchise into a full-on work of dystopian fiction where rich white people use this newfangled "social experiment" as a smokescreen to commit outright genocide on poor people of color. That's what 'The First Purge' does, and it's the best 'Purge' by far. Which isn't saying much, but still.

Perhaps not a coincidence: This is the first 'Purge' film helmed not by series creator James DeMonaco, but rather by Gerard McMurray, a black director -- who has, interestingly enough, an associate producer credit on the legitimately great 'Fruitvale Station'.

There's some unexpected 1980s action vibe in there, as well, especially what with Y'lan Noel (of 'Insecure') tapping into his inner Carl Weathers in the final act. He turns into a bulging angel of vengeance in a white sleeveless shirt, snapping necks and slitting throats and laying down automatic weapons fire. (For this reason 'First Purge' put me in mind of 'First Blood'.)

Best visual: The aforementioned Noel strangling to death a white paramilitary "crisis actor" in a blackface mask. McMurray *lingers* on that shit, making sure you can hear every wet gurgle down to the last death rattle.

Good God, that script, though. Clunky as hell. Just... Ugh. And Marisa Tomei, bless her, has never been more brittle or less convincing.