Cast: Ana de la Reguera, Tenoch Huerta, Josh Lucas, Cassidy Freeman, Leven Rambin. Directed by Everardo Gout.
There’s a feeling during the second half of the fifth film in The Purge franchise, where you start to realise that this film has been improved by the postponing due to Covid. Despite series writer / creator James DeMonaco attempting to predict the future the same way he tried with third entry The Purge: Election Year, this once again sees him mis-judge. Just like that film’s heroic victory of a woman president, this one sees the New Founding Father’s return as the driving force of The Purge.
Clearly, DeMonaco thought that Trump was sailing towards a second term, but there’s no way that he could have predicted the insurrection in the Capitol, which makes this film feel all the more apt. Directed by Everardo Gout, The Forever Purge follows two Mexican immigrants – Ana de la Reguera and Tenoch Huerta and the ranchers they work for – Josh Lucas, Cassidy Freeman and Leven Rambin – as they attempt to flee the US when Purgers refuse to stop after one night.
While DeMonaco has never been a subtle writer or – at least for the first three films – director, this film is even more heavy-handed than previous ones. No Purge film has properly explored the concept that the series offers, but even within the action-horror trappings, there are actual ideas at work. Much more so than previous ones, this is a film that feels like DeMonaco has just written down things he’s read on Twitter or heard on Alt-Right news channels. Much is made about the “rapists” from across the border.
Gout is not a terrible director, and imbues the new landscape shown here – the lush rocky landscapes of Texas instead of the concrete jungles that marked the previous three films. The expansive setting and fight on the border allow for a western feel even if the film never makes good on the promise of someone riding a stars-and-stripes horse.
The film falls down when it attempts for a level of subtlety. Yes, the main villains are all horrific racists, calling women whores and every brown-skinned character a “hombre”, but as it raises the issue that Lucas’ Dylan is prejudiced if not outright racist, the film very quickly drops it because cartoon characters are wielding machetes. There’s the recurrent issue that white people who are as much at fault as anyone else become the heroes of the story by helping the people of colour. Ethan Hawke in The Purge, Frank Grillo in Anarchy and Election Year and now Lucas are all prejudiced, and clearly voted for the NFFA to come into office, but are redeemed by the end of the film.
The film also throws in weird ideas like Saw-style traps, and opts to forget about the only Black character in the film after the first act. The film is also weirdly slow, taking a lot of time setting up characters with very little personality. Though there is some joy in seeing the clean up the next day, it also makes you wish that Blumhouse would fund a half-hour comedy about the morning after with a cleanup crew forced to pick up severed limbs and mop up the blood.
While there could certainly be more, the anthology nature of the series means you could make thousands of these set in different states and about different people, but it might take someone with a little more political savvy to make something with more bite and satire than just the usual beardy racists wearing masks to make a true comment on the state of the US today.