Filled with a lot of action, The Forever Purge is at times thrilling, but it remains at surface-level rather than delving further into its themes.
The Forever Purge, directed by Everardo Gout from a screenplay by James DeMonaco, is the fifth installment in The Purge franchise, which had its humble beginnings eight years ago with the Lena Heady and Ethan Hawke-starring film. The sequels that have come after have evolved in their own way, each with a different plot and set of characters. However, the core premise has largely remained the same. Filled with a lot of action, The Forever Purge is at times thrilling, but it remains at surface-level rather than delving further into its themes.
Adela (Ana de la Reguera) and Juan (Tenoch Huerta) have recently migrated to the United States from Mexico, settling in Texas and attempting to make the best of their new lives. Adela is more of an optimist with regards to their new country, encouraging Juan to see the bright side and to speak English more so as to better acclimate to their surroundings. While Adela takes a job at a manufacturing company, Juan is hired to watch over the horses on the ranch of a wealthy family headed by Caleb Tucker (Will Patton). Tucker’s son, Dylan (Josh Lucas), is a jerk and racist to Juan, bitter that his employee is a better cowboy than him. Their employer-employee relationship doesn’t last very long before the pair, alongside Adela and Dylan’s pregnant wife Cassidy (Cassidy Freeman), decide to head to Mexico for safety after a group of people decide to keep the Purge — which has been reinstated by the government — going after its initial conclusion.
The Purge movies have always been deeply political, acting as a reflection of the U.S. at various points in time since the first film was released in 2013. Each film offers a different angle while still leaning into the violence, chaos, and hate that permeates and drives the respective narratives. The Forever Purge acts in the same vein as its predecessors and it’s admittedly one of the better films in the franchise. However, one of its weakest aspects is that it doesn’t delve further into the themes it sets up.
It’s ironic, yes, that the characters have to find refuge in Mexico to escape the Purge, but the film also doesn’t have much to say in the way of political commentary. When even the rules of the Purge are ignored — by many, and not just by the obvious supremacists who want “purge purification” — The Forever Purge introduces a lot of elements and overarching messages that don’t have time to be explored because it’s preoccupied with other things. To that end, the film pretty much ignores the horror aspects in favor of chases, shootouts, and the like. There are a couple of jump scares nearer to the beginning, but Gout drops the pretense altogether, deviating to being more of a high-octane survival action thriller than a true horror film. And, though the action is intense, it’s also somewhat mundane and by-the-book.
If nothing else, The Forever Purge sets up an ending that is ultimately optimistic, but its stance on the bleak future of America is abundantly clear. That said, much of the horror stems from the circumstances of the Purge itself, though the film doesn’t take very many risks to enhance, or expand upon, an idea that has played out several times before at this point. Despite everything, however, there is something satisfying about Adela and Juan being the protagonists who get to fight for their survival against those who would rather see them dead.
The film highlights the obvious racism and microaggressions they face as Mexicans living in Texas, which is ultimately the true horror of the film. That people feel justified in their hatred is something the film focuses on. Ultimately, the fact they are the faces leading The Forever Purge is tremendous, even if the film doesn’t rise above the mediocrity of its premise to deliver something a bit deeper and more worthwhile.
The Forever Purge is playing in theaters as of July 2, 2021. The film is 103 minutes long and is rated R for strong/bloody violence and violence throughout.
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