The film opens with an insane junkie named Skeletor (Rotimi Paul) telling another man about his dark desires and instincts, and how he wants to purge to unleash his hatred of people. The other man likes Skeletor's use of the word "purge" and assures him that he will get to do just that very soon.
It is a time of economic and social turmoil in the United States. The New Founding Fathers of America are established to replace both the democratic and republican parties. They plan to initiate an experiment on Staten Island within two days time to allow for citizens to release their inhibitions for a 12-hour period. This was concocted by Chief of Staff Arlo Sabian (Patch Darragh) and Dr. May Updale (Marisa Tomei). Those conducting and monitoring the experiment offer the Island's residents $5000 to stay in their homes during the experiment, and an additional compensation to those who participate. The participants are given tracking devices and camera contact lenses to monitor their activity.
We meet drug lord Dmitri (Y'lan Noel) as he tells his dealers that they will be making their way out of Staten Island on Purge Night. One dealer, Capital A (Christian Robinson), says he wants to stay and purge, but Dmitri has his trusted friend Blaise (Siya) flip Capital A onto his back to reaffirm his orders.
Elsewhere, a young dealer named Isaiah (Joivan Wade) has a run-in with Skeletor, who harasses him and says he's going after his sister on Purge Night. Isaiah shoves Skeletor, who retaliates by cutting Isaiah's neck with a razor before fleeing. Isaiah tends to his wound at home when he is found by his sister Nya (Lex Scott Davis), who is advocating against the Purge. Nya goes to confront Dmitri, with whom she has some history. She is angry because she thinks that Dmitri has Isaiah dealing for him, but Dmitri says he never knew he was dealing and never would have taken him in like that.
On the evening of the experiment, many people make their way off the Island via ferries. Nya joins her friends Dolores (Mugga) and Luisa (Luna Lauren Velez), as well as Luisa's daughter Selina (Kristen Solis) at church where they will wait out the Purge. Nya thinks that Isaiah is with their uncle in Brooklyn, but he has stayed to participate in the Purge so he can go after Skeletor. Meanwhile, Dmitri has stayed in his office while Capital A has sent two hookers there to keep Dmitri company.
Isaiah goes out into the streets with his gun. Skeletor has joined the Purge as well, and he finds a man trying to break open an ATM, and Skeletor stabs him to death. This is recorded as the very first Purge of the night. The footage goes viral quickly after the NFFA gets their hands on the video. They observe that there are more parties being thrown around the area compared to what they were originally expecting.
Skeletor walks upon one of the Purge parties happening, which is just a rave going on in the middle of the streets. He stabs a few people to death before the crowd runs away in fear. Isaiah has him cornered and aims his gun at him, but he fails to pull the trigger, drops the gun, and runs away. Skeletor chases after him as Isaiah runs through bad neighborhoods where other murderous Purgers are running loose. He finds a quiet spot to call Nya for help, and she leaves to go find him.
As Nya goes to look for Isaiah, Dmitri is visited by the hookers. As they seduce him, they quickly turn out to be Purgers who try to kill him. At the same time, we see Nya get caught by Skeletor, who tries to cut and rape her, but Isaiah stabs Skeletor in the back and runs away with Nya. Dmitri fights off the hookers and learns that they were sent by Capital A to take Dmitri out so that he can assume control of the block, as well as to receive their payment so they can leave their business.
Nya and Isaiah make their way back to the church, only to find Purgers walking out of it, covered in blood. After the Purgers disperse, Nya finds Luisa and Selina alive, but they don't know where Dolores went. They make their way to Nya and Isaiah's apartment for safety. Once there, they are met by Dolores, who managed to make it through the streets in one piece, albeit very shaken up.
At the NFFA headquarters, Updale reviews the footage of the evening and notices teams of people killing civilians, including those at the church. Sabian tells her that he had mercenaries sent out to kill people in the impoverished neighborhoods as a way to set a balance between the rich and the poor. After giving her this information, Sabian has Updale taken to a shady neighborhood where she is executed. He orders footage of this to be deleted.
Capital A goes by Dmitri's place to ask the hookers what became of Dmitri. He gets his answer when Dmitri's still-loyal crew members draw their guns on Capital A and his goons. Dmitri comes out and executes him before the goons get shot too. Dmitri then proceeds to meet with the rest of his crew, only for him and his buddy to get their car rammed into by a flaming truck. Purgers step out to shoot people on the streets, but Dmitri snaps one of their necks and steals his gun to shoot the others. He heads to meet the crew and finds that they are cornered by Purgers dressed in Klan uniforms. The Klansmen fire upon the men in the building until they have smoke bombs thrown at their feet, leaving the Klansmen blind and open to get slaughtered. Dmitri reteams with his whole crew until NFFA drones shoot them all dead.
Dmitri contacts Nya when he finds that the mercenaries are headed to her apartment. He orders her to stay hidden and get what she can to protect herself and the others. Sure enough, the mercs are viciously gunning down everybody on every floor. Dmitri grabs as many guns as he can carry and heads to the building. He finds three mercs and fights them before shooting two of them and strangling the third. The other mercs are making their way up to the top floor where Nya and the others are. Luisa, Selina, and Dolores hide in the closet for safety. Dmitri kills more mercs until he joins the others. Two mercs break into the apartment, but Nya shoots them both in the legs before she and Isaiah stab them in the necks. As the mercs reach Nya's place, they prepare to shoot an RPG until Skeletor shows up and slays three mercs before getting shot dead. Dmitri grabs a C4 explosive and tosses it into the other room, shooting it until it blows up and obliterates the remaining mercs.
The survivors make their way out of the room as the sirens signaling the end of the Purge go off. Dmitri got shot, but Nya and Isaiah help him walk out. The other survivors meet up outside where they view Dmitri as a hero. Isaiah asks what happens now, and Dmitri says it's time for them to fight back.
As the credits roll, Sabian issues a statement saying that the Purge was a success, and they will begin to roll out a nationwide Purge starting the following year.
*CUT TO THE CHASE*
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The New Founding Fathers of America establish The Purge as a resolution to the economic and social turmoil plaguing the United States. It begins on Staten Island where they claim to pay residents to stay in their homes and to participate in their experiment.
A young drug dealer named Isaiah stays on the Island after claiming to his sister Nya to have left, but he is after a maniacal junkie named Skeletor that attacked him. Nya goes to find him and bring him back to her apartment with their surviving friends, just as the NFFA have sent out mercenaries to eliminate people in poor neighborhoods because they weren't killing each other as quick as they had hoped.
A drug lord named Dmitri - who is friends with Nya and Isaiah - loses all his crew members to the events of the night, so he takes it upon himself to rescue his friends as the mercenaries are heading up to Nya's apartment. He manages to kill most of them while Nya and Isaiah kill some themselves. The team is finished when Dmitri blows them up with C4.
The protagonists survive the night, but hundreds of innocent people are slaughtered, and because The Purge is deemed a success, it will go on to continue for the next few decades.
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