The Forever Purge review – A dark reality not too far from our own

The Forever Purge review – A dark reality not too far from our own

I’ve probably said this in every review I’ve ever written for films in the Purge franchise, but I’m going to say it again nonetheless: it is unfathomable that what began as a half-decent novelty home invasion thriller has become one of the most consistently exciting social commentary projects to ever exist. Yes, some of the entries are stronger than others, but none are outright bad, and ALL are extremely thoughtful in how they apply their thematic framework within a genre setting. This trend continues with the latest entry, The Forever Purge.

As the fifth film in the series (and the first to exist after the spin-off television show), we’d have good reason to believe that the quality would start petering off at this point. But alas, it’s as strong as ever, partially due to the fact that the creator of the franchise, James DeMonaco, remains the sole scribe. He’s no longer the director (he departed from that duty after The Purge: Election Year), and this time around the duties go to Everardo Gout (Dias De Gracia), who does a wonderful job keeping the film tied to the imagery of the series on the whole, while also injecting it with a fresh visual style (regular shifting of tone/style are also hallmarks of the series at large).

This time around, the film follows Adela (Ana de la Reguera) and Juan (Tenoch Huerta) as a married couple who, after escaping a drug cartel, enter America via an underground tunnel. Juan works as a ranch hand for a well-off white family lead by the egotistical, racist Dylan (Josh Lucas). Juan is good at what he does, much to Dylan’s displeasure, but the kind words and prompt payment by Dylan’s father (Will Patton) has Juan biting his tongue in the face of regular persecution.

Tonight is the night of the annual Purge, as set into law by the New Founding Fathers of America. Dylan’s family will be locking down in their fortified ranch, while Juan and Ana have taken refuge in a garage guarded by private security and paid for by the large community of immigrants who share the space. It’s a relatively uneventful 12 hours, but when the siren indicating the end of the Purge blares and everyone opens their doors to what’s supposed to be an America cleansed of pent up rage, instead they find that a rogue element has chosen to ignore the end of the event. They call themselves “purifiers” and they claim to want to reclaim their country.

But we all know what that really means.

::points to skin, then points to an unused napkin::

Plotwise, what follows is a tense series of bite-sized chase sequences, rescue missions, and stand-offs, complete with extreme violence, stereotypical Purging masks, and lots of towering flames. But in a thematic sense, there’s much more going on. Through the “purifiers” we’re seeing a mirror of the real world white supremacists who have been emboldened over the past few years. This rogue group of murderers also stands parallel to the uptick of unrest in our streets as well. And by the time martial law is invoked and and the borders to both Mexico and Canada are opened, it becomes clear that The Forever Purge, by stacking so many flavors of loaded imagery, is calling back to the original target of the series’ central satirical device: class divisions on the whole. They really do seem to define every aspect of American life.

While the first film in the series is the only one I’d think of specifically as a horror movie, the intentions of every entry have been to shake up the audience, often using splattery imagery to do so. This more visceral approach has petered off a bit in the latest film, but only a little. The violence is there, but is as frequently cut away from as not. It remains effective nonetheless, given how well the main characters are designed. While not the most thoroughly characterized, they are very functional and easy to care about. The performances are all quite good, and exactly where they need to be, tonally speaking.

In one scene, two characters are clearly falling for one another across the film’s established racial lines, and doing so while raiding an abandoned grocery for supplies. She grabs peanut butter. He grabs jelly. They share a moment. A peanut butter and jelly moment of love.

It made me groan so hard, but not for as long as I could have. Mid-groan I cut myself off. Why? BECAUSE I WAS DEEPLY CHARMED.

The point is that everyone seems to get the material, and are committed to working it up to its maximum potential, both in front of an behind the camera.

One could be forgiven for thinking “oh, just another Purge movie,” and while that’s not inaccurate, it’s also not an insult. This is just another Purge movie, which means an exciting story filled with good characters, employed to put a focus on the social ills of our times. And since times are always changing (and humans always gotta human), this is a recipe that stays fresh.

Directed by Everardo Gout

Written by James DeMonaco

Starring Ana de la Reguera, Josh Lucas, Tenoch Huerta, Will Patton

Rated R, 103 minutes

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