The Forever Purge (2021)
I have to admit that The Forever Purge surprised me a bit. I thought after The First Purge featured a majority black cast as well as an African-American director that, with Everardo Gout directing this film and the leads being Latin, this would be similar and feature a mainly Hispanic cast. The First Purge was based on a script by James DeMonaco, but obviously there had been some directorial intervention in the last one, so having someone from that community would help it not to stray into the realm of camp. That way The Forever Purge could tell another Purge story from another angle, this one being from that of both legal and illegal immigrants and spotlight their treatment in this future alternate America as a way, once again, to not-so-subtly bring up points about our current society.
Subtlety has never been part of the Purge series and I wouldn't expect DeMonaco to suddenly start, especially since this was made while Donald Trump was still in power and still trying to push his border wall. Like a lot of recent films that have finally made it to the theater in the latter half of 2021 it was supposed to have been out a year before, specifically for Independence Day of 2020 and thus just in time to do the usual Democrat shadow campaign for their candidate. It didn't end up working out that way, so the movie, like a number of movies that wanted to tackle the low-hanging fruit of the Trump administration, seems out of context now that he (except in his and the mind of a number of misguided followers) is out of office. That is, unfortunately, what happens when a writer or director pins the success of their work on current politics. Still, rather than dwell on immigration politics, this is for the most part a cuationary tale about what happens if we let the hate groups take over.
Adela (Ana de la Reguera) and her husband Juan (Tenoch Huerta) illegally cross over into the United States to find a better life and flee a Mexico that is still largely under the control of drug cartels. Unfortunately, the U.S. is having its own problems as well, with a rise in civil unrest and hate crimes. This leads to the New Founding Fathers of America being voted back into power and the Purge being reinstated. Unfortunately Adela and Juan, who by then have found stable jobs in the small town of Los Feliz, Texas, are about to experience the revival of the holiday.
Most people, regardless of political association, seem not too happy to have to deal with the return of the Purge. While Adela and Juan spend the night in a guarded safehouse for protection the family he works for remains safe behind their security system. Unfortunately, the day after, which is usually a time for business to get back to normal, sees instead an increase in violence as a loose union of hate groups, antigovernment protestors and malcontents from all sides of the political spectrum decide the Purge will continue until the U.S. is cleansed of foreign and traitorous elements and a new America emerges. The NFFA, taken by surprise, declares martial law, while Canada and Mexico open their borders for a six-hour window to refugees wishing to flee. Ironically, this leads to Juan's boss Dylan (Josh Lucas) fleeing with the couple and their friend T.T. (Alejandro Edda) along with Dylan's pregnant wife Cassidy (Cassidy Freeman) and younger sister Harper (Leven Rambin) in a desperate attempt to get to El Paso before the border closes.
Where The Purge: Anarchy, The Purge: Election Year and The First Purge all saw the various characters taking the streets and ultimately coming together to aid themselves, this time they are a small group traveling through a quickly crumbling America. It's not a bunch of set pieces of murder and other acts but rather full on war between the Forever After movement and the National Guard with everyone else caught in the middle. The best portion of the film is seeing this from ground level in El Paso, with a similar type of feeling (just not with shaky cam) as Cloverfield.
Unfortunately, for a movie trying to make a political point, it's quite muddy. Dylan isn't a racist in the way of a slur-spouting white supremacist, but more passively in wanting to feel comfortable among his own - a view his father Caleb (Will Patton) and the rest of his family don't share. It makes him an easily redeemable "racist" white character, but his world view is uncomfortably close to that of certain trends where the more extreme left white people out of their space so they can feel secure. It's a situation where not making Dylan a outright, scene-chewing stereotypical racist (which we do get in a swastika-tattooed skinhead Adela gets stuck in a police van with as well as an antagonist that shows up toward the end of the film) muddies the point. As I have pointed out, the Purge movies are not subtle, and as much as I roll my eyes at the hamfisted leftist politics in each one, it is obvious they work better in this type of movie rather than trying to be nuanced. Josh Lucas is good in the role and there is never any reason to hate him, but either he or an additional character needed a rote redemption route, or DeMonaco just needed to make Dylan, who seems to be a decent person in most cases, completely good from the beginning and just leave the hatred to the bad guys.
For the type of movie it is, which is largely an exploitation film like the others that hopes to make money off of the current divisive politics in our country, it is successful. It is filmed well, the story doesn't get too complicated to where it rips itself apart with plot holes and it does get its point across on how immigrants are treated. It does end a bit too early to get into driving home the point of how Americans would feel if we suddenly became refugees of a war-torn country, but still uses some voiceover broadcasts to attempt it. Also, while the series definitely needs to be brought to a conclusion at some point, another one is on its way. If anything it will be interesting to see what rises from the ashes of that world.
The Forever Purge (2021)
Time: 103 minutes
Starring: Ana de la Reguera, Tenoch Huerta, Josh Lucas, Alejandro Edda, Cassidy Freeman, Leven Rambin
Director: Everardo Gout