Purge, Less Merry Death*
The Forever Purge
Directed by Everardo Gout
UK cinema release print.
Warning: Some light spoilerage, perhaps.
Seems like, no matter what I’m looking at for this blog, it’s inevitable that at some point I’ll be reviewing another Purge movie. The Forever Purge is the fifth and, possibly, the final film of The Purge franchise (to date, I can’t help but think this isn’t over yet) and I’ve had a kind of love/hate relationship with the series of films since the beginning. The concept of a film where, for a 12 hour period each year, the people of America are encouraged to kill and rob each other as an outlet to keep crime figures low, was originally inspired by the old, classic Star Trek episode The Return Of The Archons (which I think is yet another episode where Kirk blows up a computer). The films are technically slick doses of ‘designer grimy’ ultra-violence which are a double edged sword because, they are genuinely scary to people like me and remind me that weapons of all kind are to be feared. And while that general message of the films, that violent conflict is bad, is usually pushed... at the same time, they also revel in that violence and its always my fear that there is a significant faction of the audience who respond to these as the glorification of violence. Either reaction is fine to an extent, films are entertainment and they’re also art... doing what art does... but the little bit of the Venn diagram of viewers who overlap into actually acting out this stuff in real life are the ones that worry me... especially in the heightened, sensitive state the world seems to have entered over the last five years or so.
So The Forever Purge follows the original The Purge (reviewed here) which had probably the best and more high profile actors... it introduced the audience to the concept and it was okay but, a little mean spirited for my liking and, ultimately, just a little worrying that audiences responded so favourably to it. Then we got the direct sequel, The Purge - Anarchy (reviewed here) which really upped its game, giving us a great, entertaining movie reminiscent of those old, early 1970s hard-edged, violent science-fiction thrillers. I loved this one and the next sequel, The Purge - Election Year (reviewed here) was also pretty good, following a politician’s attempts to finally bring an end to these ridiculous purges. Then we had the prequel, The First Purge (reviewed here), which was a real low point of the series as far as I am concerned. It tried to tackle the racism inherent in society but in such a way that anybody white was evil and everybody else was good. It’s probably one of the most racist movies I’ve seen but, hey, some people liked it and I’m tolerant of that. Tolerance seems to be a key ingredient which is missing from most youngsters vocabulary these days and... yeah, that’s the scary thing.
The Forever Purge, set after the annual purge has been reinstated (which may be something covered in the recent TV show of The Purge, I haven’t seen that yet), also tackles racism but does it really well and smartly, bringing home the message that everyone should be treated equally. This one involves three main protagonists and their friends and family. We have Juan, played by Tenoch Huerta, who illegally crosses into America, fleeing the drug cartels of Mexico, in the film’s pre-credits sequence... along with his lover, the truly kick-ass Adela, played by the remarkable Ana de la Reguera... who is honestly the best thing about this film. Her background story is that she used to be part of a resistance group fighting the drug cartels before things just got too hot to stay in Mexico. Now Juan works in a ranch owned by Dylan and his father.
Dylan’s father is played by the always watchable Will Patton. As soon as I saw he was in the movie I was pretty sure that one of two things could happen with his character. Either he’d be nice to everyone and then, in the final act, turn out to be the mastermind villain behind whatever trouble is being caused in this one or he would have a stand up, doing what’s right moment and be the first victim of the film, to motivate the other characters. And... sure, one of these two things does indeed happen.
Dylan himself is played by Josh Lucas and he doesn’t really like Juan. He’s one of those ‘I’m not racist but...’ kind of people but, when he talks about this near the end of the movie, he’s pitched in and the two characters have each other’s back in a respectful bonding series of moments... just like you know they would, as they grow tolerant of each other (there’s that word again) and work together to get the rest of their people to safety. It’s pretty clear that Dylan wouldn’t have made it out of America alive if it weren’t for Juan and Adela. Wait, what? Get out of America? Okay, here’s the next twist on a franchise which is just about managing to reinvent itself in each installment.
This film initially takes place in Texas, just before and during the annual purge, just like the others. It does the usual set ups and then the violence begins and, before you know it, maybe half an hour into the movie, the purge runs its course and finishes the next day at 7am. Woah.... that was quick, I thought. What happened to the rest of the film? Then we find that a very large, organised bunch of racists who are intent on carrying on the purge forever are overrunning the country with the express purpose of purifying it for ‘true americans’ and killing all the immigrants etc. After rescuing the majority of Dylan’s people from a bunch of ranch workers and then reuniting with Adela, it’s up to Juan and his friends to get everybody to the Mexican border before it’s shut, as it’s been opened to fleeing Americans for a few hours as the whole of America becomes one huge civil war zone, with the military and police crumbling to the ‘Forever Purgers’. So it’s a race to get to the border while they are allowed into Mexico.
And it’s a well put together movie. It says a lot about the violence and wrong people do each other while, as it always does, presenting that violence in as visceral and suspenseful way as it can. There’s a truly terrifying moment when Adela and her friend are locked in the back of a police van with two purgers and the big bear of a guy in there with them starts identifying all the different guns shots being fired on the street and then conducting them like an orchestra as the different noises bring their own percussive rhythms. It only lasts for maybe a minute or, possibly, two but it’s the sequence in the movie for me which really brings home the terrifying message that there are idiots out there who are totally into all the violence and chaos and, yeah, for me the message of the films is blown up larger than life right here. It also has an old school ‘cowboys and indians’ style shoot out in the desert by the Mexican border too, at the end so, yeah, it strays into Western territory a little... which is cool.
The film is totally entertaining and, despite some really low IMDB review scores, which I suspect says a hell of a lot more about the people writing the reviews than it does the film itself (are people really this afraid of racial equality being pushed as a message?), I think it’s one of the best films in the series. I also like how it ushers in the end of the American way of life while also giving hope, if you can call it that, of a sequel... as it’s hinted that a full on civil war has begun in the US as people start fighting back against the ‘forever purgers’. Note to the censorous BBFC though... I really don't need to be warned in the certification that the film contains 'racism.' Honestly, if people are that dumb and sensitive that they feel they need to be warned about it, they shouldn't be allowed to look at any kind of art in the first place.
And not much more to say than that, other than The Forever Purge is a nice place to wrap the series up if that happens and, if you’re already a fan of the films, then you should be pretty happy with the way this one goes down, I suspect. I would be happy to watch this and the others again at some point so I hope they release a five movie boxed edition of Blu Rays sometime soon.
*Yeah... I wish Burgess Meredith could be referenced in these films so my title would make more sense... but, what the hell, I did it anyway.