Director: Everardo Gout
Starring: Ana de la Reguera, Tenoch Huerta, Josh Lucas, Cassidy Freeman, Leven Rambin, Alejandro Edda, Will Patton
Run Time: 103 mins
The Forever Purge is the fifth instalment in the ever-expanding series that has also generated a television series in its second season. The Purge films have always rested on on a fascinating concept: that one night a year, all crime, including murder, is legal, with the exception of certain politicians of course. However, whilst each instalment has been entertaining, they have all failed to fully utilise and interrogate the thought-provoking themes that this concept raises.
The initial film (The Purge) was much smaller in scope than its sequels and although it used the annual event as a backdrop, it was by-and-large a fairly run-of-the-mill home invasion thriller. The Purge: Anarchy and The Purge: Election Year moved the action into the city, to better effect, the third representing the peak of the series thus far. The fourth film, The First Purge, was a prequel that highlighted how the first purge was an experiment on Staten Island designed to divide and destroy a predominantly black community and how citizens with lower incomes are offered financial incentives to participate. Again, another fascinating concept and the first half of the film was fairly promising but its second half was rote and formulaic.
The Forever Purge is set last in the timeline in 2048 after the events of the The Purge: Election Year where at the film’s close, anti-Purger Senator Charlene Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell) was elected to power. We learn that after two terms of Roan’s leadership, the New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA) have since been re-elected into power and that they have reinstated the annual Purge.
This film is set in Texas and primarily follows a Mexican couple, Adela (Ana de la Reguera) and Juan (Tenoch Huerta) who have recently illegally immigrated to escape from the cartel and begin a new life. Adela works in a catering firm and Juan works on a rancher’s property with fellow Mexican migrant co-worker, T.T. (Alejandro Edda). Juan frequently voices his discomfort of being away from Mexico to Adela whereas she is more confident in their decision to move.
The ranch that Juan works at is owned by the Tucker family with sympathetic patriarch Caleb Tucker (Will Patton), his son Dylan Tucker (Josh Lucas), Dylan’s pregnant wife Cassie (Cassidy Freeman) and his sister Harper (Leven Rambin). The opening scenes present Dylan as uncomfortably racist and there is tension between him and the servants. It is Adela and Juan’s first Purge since their move. Adela notices a nationalist Purger group roaming the streets, who call themselves the ‘Purge Purification Force’. Once the Purge ends, the group continue their killing rampage, which extends nationwide, described as the titular ‘Forever Purge’.
The Forever Purge is probably the best instalment so far and has several well developed characters. It succeeds as it shakes the formula and asks some loftier questions than its predecessors. The conflict between the Mexican immigrants and the rachers is well handled, the notion of border tensions offering a solid bedrock to empathise with the characters on both sides once the carnage ensues. It’s made even more relevant with the current political climate in a post-Trump America, although the film is generally unsubtle in its commentary.
After being one of the highlights earlier in the year in Army of the Dead, Ana de la Reguera makes for a compelling and sympathetic lead as Adela. Tenoch Huerta is also solid as Juan and they both share a believable chemistry. Of the rest of the cast, Josh Lucas and Will Patton make the strongest impression, although Patton is underused.
The Forever Purge also scores points in that its set pieces take place in a variety of landscapes and settings, as the narrative allows it to, unlike the previous films where the height of their action is set at night in a city. The film also boasts a higher production quality than previous instalments with some creative shots from cinematographer Luis Sansans and a fitting score from Mike Flanagan-regulars, The Newton Brothers.
Whilst it’s not perfect and it could have explored its themes with greater subtlety, The Forever Purge is a course correction for the franchise and the best entry so far. If the series is to continue, it would be interesting for it to focus on the repercussions of this film and continue these characters’ story but if this is to be the last, then it will be a good note to go out on.