Synopsis: All the rules are broken as a sect of lawless marauders decides that the annual Purge does not stop at daybreak and instead should never end.
Stars: Josh Lucas, Ana de la Reguera, Tenoch Huerta, Will Patton, Leven Rambin, Cassidy Freeman, Susie Abromeit, Will Brittain
Director: Everado Gout
Running Length: 103 minutes
TMMM Score: (6/10)
Review: At first, I was going to take a pass on The Forever Purge, having skipped The First Purge back in 2018. Back then, I felt like the franchise had run its course and going back to the beginning (origin-exploring being popular at the time) felt like an easy trip to the bank for the filmmakers and the studio. Released to a surprising amount of success in 2013, The Purge made back its budget and a heck of a lot more, quickly spawning The Purge: Anarchy a year later. 2016’s The Purge: Election Year wasn’t the worst election related bit of theatrics we saw that year but despite the presence of stars Frank Grillo and Elizabeth Mitchell it signaled creative energy waning. All easy reasons why the fourth film was such an easy skip.
So, why pick up with #5, another half-hearted titled affair originally intended for release in the summer of 2020 and arriving a year later? I think it was honest curiosity after seeing the spooky poster and some suggestion it would be abandoning its long-standing urban setting for a playing field that’s more of a western vibe. Could a change of scenery be the thing The Purge saga needed to stay relevant or re-energized? Or would it just be another retelling of the same story, just with characters sporting cowboy boots and ten-gallon hats?
Well, it’s a little bit of both. While The Forever Purge isn’t any big revelation as far as horror action films go, it makes a decent attempt to get something extra from its near the border location and (gruesomely) hammer home not just a message about how the U.S. treats immigrants and minorities but what it would be like if the tables were turned. It can’t quite meet its goal on an issues-based level thanks to its primary mission of for-the-masses entertainment and it grandstands heartily, but in the end, it swings back to familiar territory so no Purge fan will leave a viewing wholly unfulfilled.
Illegally crossing the border to escape their troubled past, Mexican couple Adela (Ana de la Reguera, Army of the Dead) and Juan (Tenoch Huerta, Tigers Are Not Afraid) soon find work in a small Texas town. She works in a local processing plant and he’s a ranch hand on the Tucker farm where they both live. While Juan is friendly with most of the Tucker family, head of the clan Dylan (Josh Lucas, The Secret: Dare to Dream) doesn’t warm to him and it isn’t hard to guess why thanks to screenwriter and Purge-creator James DeMonaco’s blunt dialogue. There isn’t much time to decode the differences between the two men because the annual Purge has been reinstated after being dormant for a number of years and tonight everyone is going their own separate ways to stay safe. The Tucker family, including Dylan’s pregnant wife, his father, and sister are staying in their ranch fortress while Adela and Juan travel with their fellow immigrants to a safe space where they can avoid any trouble from marauders seeking to “cleanse” the town of their “illegals”.
After the night of government-sanctioned bloodshed, everyone emerges and begins to pick up the pieces from the grisly night…only to find that a rogue group of underground Purge-ers have decided one night isn’t enough. Now, the Ever After Purge is on and no one is safe in the day or night. As you can guess in the boiled down simplicity of this fifth entry, the two families will have to put aside their differences if they are to survive as Adela and Juan lead the Tuckers back over the border into Mexico where they would be safe.
The concept of Americans being desperate to cross over borders into Canada and Mexico and become basically illegal immigrants is novel, I’ll give DeMonaco that, but it feels like a “what if” scenario that’s years too late to be revelatory. Yes, we can look at the irony of it and chuckle at how strange it would be for all these Republican longhorns that were formerly desperate to keep illegal Mexican people out of their town now pleading with their cooks and maids to help them cross over, but is it honestly all that funny? The night before these same people were likely out hunting these people down. That’s the problem with these films in the first place: The Purge was designed to address lawlessness by allowing an anything goes one night a year free for all but all it does is make all that rage grow stronger during the year, so it doesn’t address the inherent rot in society that’s the real crime.
Director Everardo Gout seems to have been handed a guidebook to creating a Purge film and occasionally drops in something familiar to fans of the franchise. Thankfully, there seems to be more of an emphasis on finding and developing some interesting characters in this one and that what sets it in some small way apart from the others. I sparked to de la Reguera much like I did in Army of the Dead earlier this year. She brings a strength to the role that is unexpected but believable when she is called on to take action. Partnered well with the equally valued Huerta, they outshine Lucas who is completely on autopilot as the twang-y ranch owner thrust into the thick of it and learning about his own personal failings along the way. The other thing I don’t care for in these movies is that there is never one sole villain, just a series of human roadblocks that have to be dealt with. There’s no one that is memorable here serving in this space, so I won’t even bother mentioning them.
It’s rumored this was to be the final Purge film, but I wouldn’t count out that DeMonaco has one or two more of these left in him and I’d be interested to see how he could work himself out of the corner the finale painted him into. The Forever Purge has good moments and probably would play nicely if doing a binge-watch of the entire series…but I’d want one more film to truly cap things off.