There's something kind of ingenious about The Forever Purge. This cinematic Trojan horse has a strong anti-MAGA message, but is being marketed in a way that will make it appeal to the MAGA crowd. They probably won't be ready for the movie's villainous portrayal of them, much less the pointed criticism of their movement. Political horror has a long history. The Purge franchise has embraced that ethic unabashedly. You certainly can't say this fifth installment isn't timely. In fact, it couldn't be timelier.
The main characters are Adela (Ana de le Reguera) and her husband Juan (Tenoch Huerta), a couple who immigrated to the United States from Mexico. He's a ranch hand, working for a wealthy Texas family. The owner, Mr. Tucker (Will Patton), is fairly kind to him. His son Dylan (Josh Lucas), on the other hand, is pretty clearly prejudiced toward Mexicans. The Purge -- an annual 12-hour period in which all crime, including murder, is legal – takes place. Everyone makes it through alive.
Trouble doesn't begin until afterward. All across the country, groups who want the Purge to be a permanent thing continue their criminal streaks. One such group finds its way to the Tucker ranch, and their dislike of Mexicans makes Dylan's look subtle in comparison. After overtaking them, Juan has to race to locate Adela so they can find safe harbor. Obviously, given the nature of the franchise, there's a lot of violence and bloodshed along the way. With America under siege from a portion of its own citizens, Mexico and Canada announce that they will open their borders. Juan and Adela therefore have to get back into the country they once fled.
The Forever Purge has talk about the building of border walls, as well as scenes in which “purification trucks” drive around looking for people of color to target. Purgers also drive around in pick-up trucks strewn with politically-messaged flags. They ramble on about “taking back” their country. Any of that sound familiar? The movie draws on the anti-immigrant sentiment that has become so pervasive in conservative circles, then shapes a story around it that has immigrant characters as the heroes. That allows it to comment on the MAGA movement, while simultaneously suggesting how America could become as dangerous as the places immigrants often flee from if we let the worst individuals in the country call the shots.
One could certainly argue that The Forever Purge is too on-the-nose or lacking in subtlety. I like how these pictures try to be relevant, though. Many horror movies are primarily concerned with just delivering jolts. These make an effort to say something about our current political climate. That lends some weight to the requisite sequences of violence. As far as action beats go, director Everardo Gout stages them in a gritty manner, ensuring that we're continually imagining what it would be like if America ever degenerated to this level.
The performances are good, with Ana de le Reguera particularly standing out as a woman who's already been through the wringer and therefore isn't going to cower down in front of the Purgers. Will The Forever Purge, with its “judge others for who they are, not where they came from” theme change minds? Probably not. Hatred and bigotry are far too engrained to be eradicated by a movie. Nevertheless, here's a picture with something valid to say, and the guts to say it without worrying about alienating sections of the audience.
I don't know about you, but I've got to admire that.
out of four
The Forever Purge is rated R for strong/bloody violence, and language throughout. The running time is 1 hour and 43 minutes.