The reason the original Purge movie was successful — enough to spawn three follow-up films — was because it played on humanity’s collective id. It took the things we know we could never get away with and said to us with a smile, “But what if you could?” Who wouldn’t smash something up with a baseball bat every once and a while if they had the chance? Who hasn’t wanted to punch some jerk one-percenter before? But what The First Purge does is something entirely different. It takes us out of fantasy land, and into the all-too-real, exploiting weighty world events in the process.

In this prequel, we find that a recently-formed political party known as the New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA) has beat out the Democrats and Republicans to become America’s new governing body. The group’s agenda (at least privately) is to eradicate all the poor people in the country. They plan to accomplish this with the help of Dr. May Updale (Marisa Tomei) who believes a purge could be an outlet for the hatred and aggression pent up in the country’s citizens.

The trial run for the experiment is set to take place on Staten Island, and so the NFFA interviews the citizens who live there, gauging their aggression responses and cajoling them into participation with monetary incentives. The more they participate, the more money they’ll receive. A la Hunger Games and Battle Royale before it, the participants are then outfitted with tracking devices and high tech contact lenses so that the American public can keep tabs on them.

When the experimental 12-hour purge window commences, anyone who attempts to opt out is greeted by NFFA drones and all manner of mask-wearing, weapon-wielding hate groups. Caught in the chaos is a group of New Yorkers (and people of color) – a druglord named D’mitri, his ex-girlfriend Nya, her younger brother Isaiah, neighbor Dolores, another neighbor named Luisa, and her daughter Selina. Oh, and there’s a creepy drug addict named Skeletor.

With violence around every corner, the group must battle to survive the first in what we know is to become many years’ worth of purges.

Corny dialogue and acting aside (you can hardly count those as a negative – they’re some of the defining traits of the Purge movies), the film’s biggest problem is that it has taken a fantastical and, frankly, ridiculous premise, and tried to “mean” it up with real-world drama. In an attempt to be satirical and timely (just as was done with The Purge: Election Year), the movie just becomes way too on the nose. (There’s a line about “p*ssy grabbers,” to give you an idea.) It also comes across as vaguely exploitative to use actual Black Lives Matter footage and other recent tragic events in a movie like this.

Overall the film is hard to watch – and not in a good, scary movie way. I’d venture to guess that black and white moviegoers alike might not enjoy watching groups of white people roving the streets to gun down people of color. It hits a little too close to home. Especially because we know that this is a prequel to the original, and therefore, there is no real winning in the end – the violence just keeps on coming.

The First Purge opens in theaters on July 4, 2018.