The Forever Purge Review: More of the Same, but This Time With Cowboy Hats
The Purge, like so many other movie franchises, has a funny timeline when compared to the release pattern of all its entries. The fourth film, The First Purge, was the origin story of the "one night of legal crime" plot thread, which made sense because the third film, The Purge: Election Year, appeared to end on an optimistic note, one that might lead to the Purge as a concept no longer being a thing. What The Forever Purge does immediately when it begins, though, is pull the rug out from underneath you with a very matter-of-fact explanation that this didn't matter and that, in fact, things are not getting better, maybe not ever.
Despite Senator Roan abolishing the Purge on the big screen five years ago, the people that liked it (The New Founding Fathers of America or NFFA) apparently got back into power almost immediately and have brought it back. Fittingly, their supporters no longer think one night is enough. The very quick way this is handled on-screen in The Forever Purge by series creator and screenwriter James DeMonaco is done so fast it becomes almost funny. It's also a moment where it's clear that, even though the larger political feelings of the franchise are being worn on its sleeve, the Purge movies do have their fingers on the pulse in a way that reflects reality in startling ways.
That's about the most interesting thing that The Forever Purge has going for it, this bizarre mirror that it is holding up to society, where it recognized that even giving into the whims of a vocal and violent mob wouldn't be enough to satisfy them. For the rest of its run time, The Forever Purge is mostly more of the same, which will be satisfying for those that like the movies and perhaps tiresome for those that find it grating.
Different this time is the setting which, instead of a suburban "generic American city," is set across the landscape of rural/urban Texas (though California palm trees pop up in the background sometimes). This change is a welcome deviation from the previous entries and forces The Forever Purge to try out new things with its stakes.
Director Everardo Gout brings a fun energy to the set pieces of the movie, which continue to take on more of an action tone and structure than horror (frequently the frights are exclusively aesthetic). Even considering this, the mindless moments of mayhem and carnage mostly satisfy, though the connective tissue holding them together is stretched like gum. One sequence in the third act, however, a tricky "one-shot" through the streets of El Paso, is among the best moments in the series.
Central to The Forever Purge's plot are Army of the Dead's Ana de la Reguera as Adela and Narcos: Mexico's Tenoch Huerta as Juan, playing Mexican immigrants that work in the US and find themselves trying to escape the carnage of the Purge. The specific storyline of these two characters is one of the more memorable throughlines of the entire series, but naturally, they're not alone in their journey and the extra people create some baggage that the story itself can't quite shake.
The Forever Purge seems to abide by the creed of "we'll all make it if we work together," which is an admirable message, but one that the movie seems to forget comes after having spent 90 minutes reveling in the reality that some people just don't want others to exist and will kill them to continue societal structures that only benefit themselves. It's in this where the window dressing of its ripped-from-the-headlines-kitsch falters after the credits roll, but while you're watching, it still manages to keep you entertained, even if sometimes you stop and think, "Wait, what?"
The good news/bad news for fans/non-fans is that despite The Forever Purge previously being noted as the final one, there's still clearly a sandbox to play in, and if the root of the entire franchise's nihilistic tones continues to be adapted from reality, we have no one to blame but ourselves.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5
The Forever Purge premieres in theaters on Friday, July 2nd.