The premise of the “Purge” movies has always been quite ridiculous but entertaining in a schlocky kind of way: A near-future America has become virtually crime-free, but once a year there’s a national “holiday” in which all offenses, including murder, are legal for a 12-hour period. You can wipe out a dozen neighbors between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. on the night of the Purge with no repercussions, but if you commit a crime at 7:01 a.m., you’re screwed. Somehow this cathartic bloodbath satiates the entire nation for the next 364 days, and then we purge all over again.
This setup yielded the claustrophobic and gripping domestic horror gem “The Purge” in 2013, followed by two sequels that remained at least partially in the horror genre but expanded into racial and political themes. (There was also an origins story, “The First Purge,” in 2018.) Now comes the final chapter in the saga, “The Forever Purge,” which eschews horror in favor of a modern-day Western action movie laced with unsubtle albeit timely social commentary and filled with the kind of gruesome, head-splitting violence you’d get in a zombie movie.
When we last left the chronological “Purge” timeline, a liberal United States senator had won a landslide election and her first order of business was to overturn the rule of the New Founding Fathers and abolish the Purge. In “The Purge Forever,” we’re told the New Founding Fathers have been reinstated (shouldn’t they be the New NEW Founding Fathers?) and the “annual blood holiday” is back, as we hear snippets of news reports about “illegal immigration on the rise” and “white supremacy rising as disinformation spreads.” So, while we’re in a fictional, near-future America, the parallels to real-world events are obvious.
Ana de la Reguera delivers a badass performance as Adela, who has made her way from Mexico to Los Feliz Valley, Texas with her husband Juan (Tenoch Huerta). Adela works in a restaurant and Juan is the horse-whispering ranch hand on the ranch of the wealthy Tucker family, which is headed by the good-hearted patriarch Caleb Tucker (the great character actor Will Patton) and includes Caleb’s headstrong and racially insensitive son Dylan (Josh Lucas), Dylan’s pregnant wife Cassie (Cassidy Freeman) and Dylan’s younger sister Harper (Leven Rambin).
On the night of the Purge, the Tuckers hunker down in their heavily reinforced compound while Adela and Juan use the money Caleb gave Juan as a “Purge bonus” to gain admission into a secure warehouse along with dozens of other immigrants. Both factions survive the night without any major incident — but come sunrise, chaos continues to reign across America, as a substantial group of well-armed, racist domestic terrorists have declared a “Forever Purge” and are systematically gunning down anyone who’s not on board with their plan to “purify” the country. As the recording emanating from “Purification Trucks” puts it, “We will no longer tolerate foreigners…we will find you and disinfect you. America will be America once again…the purification of America has begun.”
The government declares martial law and troops are deployed to major American cities, but Miami, El Paso and other metropolitan areas have already fallen. “The Forever Purge” takes on the tone of a lower-budget “Mad Max” movie as Adela and Juan and Dylan and Cassie and Harper engage in gun battles and gory hand-to-hand combat with a series of marauding and murderous traitors, many of whom wear elaborate masks and costumes because that’s always been a part of “The Purge” motif.
And check this out: with America under siege, the governments of Mexico and Canada announce they will open their borders to anyone who can make the crossing within the next six hours. After that, both borders will be closing indefinitely. (And yes, the Americans who make it are classified as “Dreamers” by the media.) Just a day earlier, Dylan was talking about how the races should “stick to our own [and] leave each other alone.” Now, he’s hoping against hope to make it safely across the border with his wife so their child can be born in Mexico — and he’s not going to be able to do it without the help of Adela and Juan. (Both parties are also given considerable help by Native Americans named Chiago, played by Zahn McClarnon, and Xavier, played by Gregory Zaragoza.)
Thanks to the stylish directing by Everardo Valerio Gout, a tight screenplay from series creator James DeMonaco and a terrific ensemble cast that elevates the material, “The Forever Purge” is a fast-paced jam that would play well on a drive-in movie screen. Take the whole thing with a big tub of popcorn and many grains of salt.