A crazed drug addict named Skeletor discusses his dark thoughts, including his desire to "purge" and unleash his hatred on other people. A psychologist tells Skeletor that he can very soon.
In an alternate 2014, the government has been overthrown by the New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA). NFFA chief of staff Arlo Sabian and behavioural scientist Dr. May Updale announce an experiment to take place on Staten Island where for 12 hours, citizens will be allowed to purge and release their inhibitions in any way they choose, including murder. The NFFA offers residents $5,000 to stay during the experiment. They also outfit the participants with contact lens cameras so that they can monitor all activity and put tracking devices in them so they will know if they try to leave the island.
Drug lord Dmitri tells his dealers that they will not be leaving the island as it will draw too much attention, moving his large amounts of money and product. Dmitri says to his soldiers that they will stay in a safe house and lay low. Dealer Capital A decides to defy this order and go out and purge, while dealer Isaiah is attacked and cut by Skeletor. Isaiah goes to his sister Nya, an anti-Purge activist and Dimitri's ex-girlfriend, for treatment.
As people flee Staten Island, Nya joins her friends Dolores, Luisa, and Selina in a church to wait out the Purge. Dmitri has stayed behind because Capital A has sent Anna and Elsa, two sex workers, to his office. Skeletor commits the first-ever Purge murder, and the video recorded by the NFFA goes viral. The NFFA also observe that more parties than killings are taking place and that crimes are mostly just looting and vandalism, as opposed to the expected murder.
Isaiah joins the Purge to get his revenge on Skeletor. He eventually confronts him during the Purge but cannot shoot him. Isaiah runs off and into more purgers, before hiding and calling Nya for help. Anna and Elsa are revealed to be Purgers who attempt to kill Dmitri, but Dmitri fights them off and learns that Capital A had sent them in an attempt to take over Dmitri's business. Skeletor captures Nya in the streets and attempts to rape her, but Isaiah wounds him and they escape.
Nya and Isaiah return to the church to see blood-soaked white supremacist bikers leaving it. Although Luisa and Selina survived, Dolores' fate is unknown. They all return to Nya's apartment where Dolores has managed to make it safely. Meanwhile, at the NFFA headquarters, Updale becomes suspicious of a sudden increase in murder, along with the presence of masked participants. She reviews the video footage of the Purge and notices vans full of masked killers arriving. Much to her horror, she finds out that the said masked killers are trained mercenary groups killing multiple civilians. Sabian explains that he sent the mercenaries to make the experiment look successful, and eventually to help balance the wealth disequilibrium amongst the rich and the poor. Updale protests this tampering, realizing that the NFFA only wants to eradicate the poor to save the expense of social programs. Knowing that his corruption has been exposed, Sabian has Updale taken away and killed, and erases all footage of the event.
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