Its been a long time since The Purge series hit the right notes, both in terms of entertainment and social commentary and while The Forever Purge is about as subtle as a sledgehammer when it comes to the latter, there is no denying there is a certain grotesquely involving pleasure to the latest in the series. While hard to put your finger on, this Josh Lucas fronted ‘discussion’ of racism and illegal immigration flows nicely, has some well thought out action set pieces and mostly avoids the pitfalls of the more preachy elements of Election Year and The First Purge.
Following the path of two families, with the rich white American rancher family, the Tuckers led by nationalistic Dylan (Lucas) joined by married couple Juan (Tenoch Huerta) and Adela (Ana de la Reguera), a couple of immigrants seeking a better world in an America that has returned to its purging ways since they arrived. Both families find themselves weathering the latest bloodbath together as the so called festivities continue after the night has finished. Their extended nightmare has them seeking safe harbour in places neither would have thought of.
Ever since Anarchy, the Purge series has really shed its horror trappings, despite being a creation of horror studio Blumhouse, its been a long time since this series has been anything but B movie action with the occasional jump scare. However here director Everardo Gout owns that fact and plays each scenario for tension instead of lazy frights. Every character is fair game in a film never lacking in gore or brutality. The series skewing opening act, a mostly bloodless affair proves to be a significant stepping stone to the mindless action video game The Forever Purge really wants to be.
The choice to spend so much time telling an audience that racism is rife in modern day America is like telling people water is wet, which in the Purge universe is almost ironic considering halfway through The Forever Purge a water tower collapses then promptly explodes in fire? While it sufficiently establishes the Tucker’s as entitled but far from the psychotic southern rednecks this film gleefully turns into cannon fodder instead of providing any sense of character, its Juan and Adela who are short changed, constantly portrayed as the gun happy sidekicks to their white compatriots. For every moment that advocates for equality, it is followed up by a chastising or straight up slaughtering of people that the film lazily describes as backwards.
However the film filters out any of this so called ‘nuance’ as soon as the destruction begins and in doing so allows room for some truly impressive sequences, including a well choreographed shootout down a ravaged city street. There are times where cheap CGI gets in the way, especially when fire is involved and certain performers pretend they are in a VR shooter a little too much but mostly Gout relies on some well thought out visual stunts and some captivating Texan landscapes to sell his faux western take on this universe.
While it isn’t a timeless classic, or even the best film in the series, it is fun and that is something that has been missing since Anarchy and much appreciated to have back. I wouldn’t watch it if your looking for hard hitting commentary on modern day xenophobia however, then again, I don’t imagine many people will.