#REVIEW: “THE FOREVER PURGE”
Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
The Purge series began in 2013 as a self-contained Horror-Thriller. It was an inherently political take on classism, racism and fascism, though it felt far removed from reality and more like an over-the-top, high concept piece of dystopian Science Fiction. Flash-forward to 2021 and THE FOREVER PURGE does not feel so over-the-top anymore. No, watching this fifth film in the Series feels more like watching a Documentary than it does a Horror-Thriller. When we are watching real-life news coverage of the Capitol Riot in Washington this past January and reading the weekly reports of racially motivated violence, it means The Purge series is no longer entertainment. On the contrary, it has become a prophetic vision we seem to be rapidly hurtling towards.
Writer James DeMonaco, who directed the first three films and wrote all five, pivots here from focusing on African-Americans (and their often White Saviours) to the plight of two immigrants – Adela (Ana de la Reguera) and Juan (Tenoch Huerta) – who fled Mexico to pursue the American Dream. They survive their first purge, only to find themselves thrust into a fight for survival when an underground militant group decides to keep purging the morning after. They want to cleanse and purify America. They want to take it back from the immigrants and anyone else who does not belong. Does that sound familiar?
If it does not, then perhaps DeMonaco’s non-subtle addition of an enormous wall dividing Texas and Mexico might settle any thoughts to the contrary.
Allusions to reality aside, THE FOREVER PURGE as a whole feels like a mess of ideas crammed into the margins surrounding a group of “good” individuals and the animated cast of “bad” characters they encounter while trying to stay alive. There is way too much going on and anytime the Film latches onto the nugget of a great idea, it skips ahead to something else. The most interesting moments are basically treated as background noise. While the dialogue is clunky at best, there are at least two scenes where DeMonaco’s Script practically breaks the fourth wall in order to talk directly to the far-right audience. But the audience nor the characters get anytime to dwell on it. No, instead we get to dwell on hyper-cut scenes of brutal violence and twisted carnage. After four films (and a TV Series), is it really too much to ask for this Film to be more focused? We finally get to see (albeit briefly) what the massive cleanup after a purge looks like. Why not run with it for a bit longer? Why build up the faceless underground group who sets these events into motion, only to just show us randoms with a grudge?
And they may say this is the final Purge film, except that ellipsis of an ending suggests otherwise.
THE FOREVER PURGE is not so much a disappointment as it is a missed opportunity. It looks fine, the acting is uniformly good and there are a handful of effectively intense scenes (including a sweeping one-take through a chaotic warzone). It wants to be more than that though, and it deserves to be more than that. DeMonaco has a lot to say here but does not know how to stay on track without getting lost in the weeds. Which is a shame because the Horror in this installment feels more real and palpable than ever. Hopefully our grim reality does not keep following in its footsteps.
Universal Pictures Canada release THE FOREVER PURGE in theatres on Friday, July 2, 2021.
*Please ensure you exercise caution in observing COVID-19 protocols if seeing this in-theatre*.