A film review by Craig J. Koban October 6, 2021

THE FOREVER PURGE jj
 

2021, R, 103 mins.

Ana de la Reguera as Adela  /  Tenoch Huerta as Juan  /  Josh Lucas as Dylan Tucker  /  Cassidy Freeman as Emma Kate  /  Will Patton as Caleb Tucker  /  Susie Abromeit as Mrs. Hardin  /  Anthony Molinari as Merc  /  

Directed by Everardo Gout  /  Written by James DeMonaco

THE FOREVER PURGE is the fifth film in THE PURGE Cinematic Universe (if one could call it that) and a direct sequel to 2016's insanely enjoyable THE PURGE: ELECTION YEAR, which I thought was the series' ludicrous high point on a level of pure retrograde trashiness.  

You may remember that in ELECTION YEAR a new political party beat the New Founding Fathers of America and pledged to end the annual Purge in America...indefinitely.  THE FOREVER PURGE does away with that plot development within minutes of its opening sections and shows new New Founding Fathers taking a stranglehold of the country again and, yes, reinstating The Purge.  

But now - wait for it! - some pockets of the NFFA want The Purge to go on...forever...in order to exterminate every minority that's considered impure to the white race. 

These movies are about as subtle as a baseball bat shot to the old babymakers.  Even when you go back to the James DeMonaco created franchise starter from 2013, what began as a modestly scaled, but intriguing high concept home invasion thriller cross morphed with futuristic dystopian sci-fi horror evolved into lurid grindhouse sensationalism that was THE PURGE: ANARCHY and the aforementioned ELECTION YEAR.  All of THE PURGE films have methodically hammered home their social/political themes of the hyper aggressiveness of American society gone totally postal with anything but thoughtful restraint, but as tasty meat and potatoes exploitation cinema goes I've placed myself in the minority position of being an enthusiastic apologist.  THE FOREVER PURGE should be a sequel on critical life support (as most fifth entries in a series usually are), but I'll give DeMonaco credit for twisting his anarchist premise enough here to make this outing initially compelling (which I'll get into soon) and have a different vibe than what has come before (that's what good sequels should do).  But obvious franchise fatigue is settling in here, and creative exhaustion is beginning to squeeze through the cracks.   

For those that have been living under a rock and need a brief explainer of all things PURGE, the franchise is cemented in a twisted premise: In the near future a vile white nationalist party has taken over the U.S. and has reduced all crime significantly via a yearly government sanction holiday - occurring for twelve hours at the same time every year - during which time all crime is legal.  The only limit is a citizen's macabre imagination.  The NFFA rationale is that allowing Americans to "purge" will cleanse themselves for the better (granted, one thing that this series has never fully explained is how the utterly insane Purgers are able to instantly go back to any semblance of a sane life after their barbarism for one night).  As mentioned earlier, in ELECTION YEAR this despotic party was ousted, leaving an aura of hope (and a sense of closure) for this series, but now the NFFA have reclaimed America and the Purge is reborn again.  THE FOREVER PURGE changes its geographical focus to Texas and introduces us to Adela (Ana de la Reguera) and Juan (Tenoch Huerta), a couple of illegal Mexicans that have secretly crossed into America in hopes of a better life. 

Are their lives safe in the fascist minority hating state sponsored killing that typifies the NFFA? 

Do Purgers like wearing masks? 

Anyhoo', Adela and Juan manage to find jobs in a small Texas town, with Juan becoming a loyal and hardworking ranch hand for his tough talking and no-nonsense boss, Dylan (Josh Lucas), who's a casual racist (he values and respects his workers, but feels that whites and non-whites are best left living apart).  Tensions really start to come to the forefront when the annual Purge commences, with Adela and Juan finding safety outside of the ranch, whereas Dylan secludes himself in his well fortified home with pregnant wife Emma (Cassidy Freeman) and his dad, Caleb (holy hell, Will Patton!).  Now, normally a PURGE movie would revel in the nocturnal carnage and the killing/survival instincts of all the players in question, but THE FOREVER PURGE kind of treats it as an afterthought.  The night ends, people go back to their lives, and everything seems to revert back to normal. 

End of movie...right? 

Ummmmm...nope. 

 

 

Things go south (geographical pun intended) when a malicious new group dubbed the Ever After Purge makes their presence felt post-regular Purge and wish to exert their violent wills to enact - GASP! - a forever Purge that will - DOUBLE GASP!!! - go 24/7 and will lead to anyone that's not Caucasian being rounded up and exterminated.  Predictably, martial law is declared in the absolute shit show that has become America, and during it countries like Mexico and - YAY! - Canada offer safe refuge for anyone that wishes to escape the U.S....but only for a finite period of time.  Realizing that the clock is ticking, Juan and Adela find themselves teaming up with - yup - Dylan and his posse as they desperately race towards the border and their hopeful freedom from this newfound tyranny.  And they have to do so why under the constant bombardment of the new ultra racist/red necked Purgers that want all illegals dead and buried. 

Obviously, a PURGE sequel this late in the game desperately needs some fine retuning and new direction, and DeMonaco (returning as screenwriter, but not director) tries as he can to infuse some newfangled energy into the proceedings.  Right wing extremists and supremacists have always been the default villains of these films (that was never going to change), but something had to give with the central Purge idea itself, and having militia groups wanting to enact a Forever Purge does - at first - give this film a renewed class warfare story trajectory.  I think that DeMonaco is trying to fan the flames of his story's fire with the very recent Capital riots that gripped America, which makes some of the imagery contained within THE FOREVER PURGE have an immediate haunting potency.  Beyond that, this sequel mostly takes things outside and during the daytime post-Purge, which gives the film an aesthetic makeover.  Western genre influences also add fresh flavoring to the cause as well, and the overall race to the border narrative for the ragtag band of heroes desperately defending themselves from waves upon waves of white grievance spitting psychopaths is never dull. 

There's new directorial blood at the reigns of this sequel too, with Mexican-American filmmaker Everardo Valerio Gout filling in for DeMonaco, and for the most part he makes a lean, mean, and tightly edited action picture that plays up to series strengths.  THE PURGE films want to be on solid and thoughtful thematic ground as eerie parallels to contemporary American societal ills...but...who are we kidding ourselves...these movies ironically wallow in their gratuitous extremes and ridiculous violence.  That's not to say that THE FOREVER PURGE is not without its well oiled moments of mayhem.  There's a sensationally engineered one-shot sequence showing Dylan and company making their way through Forever Purge-ified city streets (it's all pretty thanklessly well done), not to mention an unendingly creepy moment in a police van when all of the heroes find themselves chained up alongside a Neo-Nazi Purger prisoner that listens to the maelstrom of fired bullets and bomb explosions outside and treats them like a symphony of beautiful music (he's able to nail gunfire down to the specific weapon: "Homegrown music from the heartland," he bellows. "That's American music!"). There are ample moments of chilling unease like this littered all through THE FOREVER PURGE. 

I also appreciate that these films have always earned their hard R rating (in an era when too many films that should be adult oriented aim for a more audience friendly PG-13, THE FOREVER PURGE and its predecessors deserve some props for embracing their low brow anxiety and rage inducing eccentricities).  And unlike the previous installments, this PURGE sequel seems to be a direct attack and reaction to Trumpian America and how that presidency paved the way for nasty civil unrest in the nation (watching the old PURGE films now and in hindsight, they were sinisterly prophetic in more ways than one).  Still, the commentary this go around seems even more simplistically preachy and hilariously on-the-nose (if that's possible) than what's come before, and what this film is trying to say about systemic racism left horribly unchecked doesn't really say anything different than the last several films haven't already.  Added to that is the painfully predictable story beats, especially the one involving Lucas' bigot who learns about tolerance when he has to team up and survive with his minority workers.  You can see where this film is headed from the very beginning. 

Again, my endorsement of most of these films has really nothing to do with their mixed bagged aspirations to be sobering commentary pieces.  I always found myself being taken in with their junk food cinema unwholesomeness, and THE FOREVER PURGE is every bit as sinfully entertaining in its presentation of ritualized violence and its affect on the worst aspects of the American psyche as any of its prequels before it.  At the end of the day, THE PURGE series always worked best as ultra sleazy cinema, and I'm sometimes embarrassed to admit fondness for most of them.  Unfortunately - and if you exclude some of its novel tweaking to franchise formulas and core concepts - I have to ask myself a simple question: Is there enough to warrant this series continuation and, yes, your money to see it either in a cinema or via VOD?  Not really.  The blunt forced edge of this brutal shock and awe cinematic universe is starting to diminish, as are its cheap and unhealthy thrills.  THE FOREVER PURGE doesn't make a strong enough case for getting elected into another term.  

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