REVIEW: Even The Forever Purge Is Bigger in Texas
2/5 murder cowboys.
Few cinematic franchises are as point-blank as The Purge series, a social commentary horror franchise with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the face. What started as a modest low-budget home invasion thriller has quickly sprawled into a multi-film horror franchise that focuses on a yearly American holiday where all crime (including murder) is legal for 12 hours. The wealthy elite hide behind expensive home security systems, while working-class people of color are left vulnerable and at risk. So, you know, America.
The absurdity of The Purge as a concept is underscored by its ham-fisted metaphor for classism, racism, and capitalism in America. This night of mayhem makes for an easy vehicle to tell simple stories of disenfranchised people fighting back against the system that oppresses them. With a B-movie aesthetic and plenty of creative and gory kills, The Purge series remains a goofy yet entertaining low-brow franchise.
It also makes these films difficult to review: if you’ve stuck with the series for the first four films, then obviously you’re going to go see The Forever Purge. But if the concept holds no interest for you, then this fifth installment is unlikely to change that. As an avid fan of the franchise, I fall into the former camp. And I was not disappointed by The Forever Purge.
The Forever Purge heads to the Southern border, where Mexican immigrant couple Adela (Ana de la Reguera) and Juan (Tenoch Huerta) are chasing their own American dream. Adela works at a meat processing plant, while Juan works as a ranch hand on the sprawling horse ranch owned by the wealthy conservative Tucker family. While patriarch Caleb (Will Patton) is a welcoming presence, his insecure son Dylan (Josh Lucas) is jealous of Juan’s horse wrangling skills. Dylan later tells his pregnant wife Emma (Cassidy Freeman) that he doesn’t want his kids speaking Spanish, one of many microaggressions he throws at Juan and the other Mexican employees.
When the Purge comes, the Tuckers are safe, sealed in their armored, bulletproof mansion. Juan and Adela join their friend Titi (Alejandro Edda) in a dark warehouse crammed with fellow immigrants, who have pooled money to hire mercenaries to guard them through the night. The Purge passes uneventfully (or as uneventful as a night of legal murder can), but the next morning, the characters are shocked to discover that an extremist group of alt-right Purgers are not stopping.
The Forever Purge tosses out the series rulebook for an all-out civil war that sees Juan and Adela team up with the Tucker family as white supremacists keep the Purge going, slaughtering people of color and ethnically cleansing the country. With their masks, their flag-decorated trucks, and their shouts of “real Americans,” the purgers bear more than a passing resemblance to the domestic terrorists who stormed the Capitol on January 6. And that’s obviously intentional: The Purge series is relentlessly blunt in their indictment of gun-crazy, racist white nationalism, complete with a reference to “bad hombres.”
Director Everardo Valerio Gout keeps the action tight and intense, as the two families make their way from gunfight to gunfight. While previous films in the franchise have taken place in New York and LA, the Texas locale offers a modern twist on the Western genre. It also makes a clear statement about immigration and border patrol, as the heroes race to cross the border to seek asylum in Mexico.
The film moves briskly, and there are plenty of jump scares and fights to satisfy fans of the franchise. The cast is charismatic, and make for an effective ensemble. You might blanch at the idea that it took an all-out civil war for Dylan to stop being racist, but The Purge series does not traffic in nuance.
If you’re a fan of The Purge series, then you pretty much know what to expect with The Forever Purge. And what you see is what you get: a big, dumb piece of popcorn entertainment that is sure to leave your mind the second you walk out of the theater.
(image: Universal Pictures)
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