The dystopian action-horror “Purge” franchise has previously made stops in New York City, Los Angeles and Washington, DC.
Now, “The Forever Purge” is set along the U.S.-Mexican border in El Paso and it’s perhaps the most overtly political of the series, portraying a ragtag group of Americans trying to flee the anarchy and white supremacy of Texas for the safety of Mexico.
The film jettisons its horror roots for an aggressive social critique of modern America. But watching video of real insurrectionists on Jan. 6 try to violently take over the U.S. Capitol makes portions of “The Forever Purge” seem like a documentary.
“We are the real patriots of America,” announce a group of the mask-wearing white supremacists hoping to exterminate anyone Black or brown. “America will be America once again.” There’s no escaping the feeling that “The Forever Purge” is a poison pen letter to Trumpism.
For those just joining creator James DeMonaco’s “Purge” series, here’s how it works: In a near-future, the government, led by a nefarious party called the New Founding Fathers of America, allows an annual 12-hour period of lawlessness without recriminations. Rape, murder and robbery is permitted across the nation as a way to release anger but also a way to cull from an overpopulated nation and lower crime.
“It’s starting, y’all,” one main character announces as the purge countdown begins in the new installment of the franchise. She is protected by wealth in her ranching compound, but her immigrant employees must huddle for safety in a makeshift shelter.
The film cracks open, adding class resentment to the mix. Groups of poor disenfranchised whites begin targeting their white bosses and vowing that the purge won’t stop.
That makes strange allies of the Tucker ranching family and a pair of newly arrived immigrants from Mexico: Adela (Ana de la Reguera) and her husband Juan (Tenoch Huerta).
Up until then, the Tucker’s son, Dylan, (Josh Lucas, who played legendary UTEP basketball coach Don Haskins in the movie “Glory Road” about the then-Texas Western College 1966 NCAA championship) was flirting with outright white supremacy. Now, he and his family are being kept alive by the very people he disdained.
The film under Everardo Gout’s direction then becomes a quest as the Tuckers — including Dylan Tucker’s pregnant wife — together with Adela and Juan fight their way to El Paso, hunted by masked men demanding purification of the white race.
DeMonaco is not at all subtle with his script and maybe that’s for the best.
Here DeMonaco finds richness in flipping the script on traditional right-wing notions of the border and immigration. In the film, it is people of color saving a well-off white family from white horrors, with one refugee hoping to give birth in a place better than America.
They are all led to safety to Mexico by a Native American guide and fighter. “This is not your fight,” he is told. But he responds: “We’ve been fighting this fight for 500 years.”
“The Forever Purge,” a Universal Pictures release which opened nationwide on Friday, is rated R for “strong/bloody violence and language throughout.” Running time: 103 minutes. Three stars out of four.