Cinema/TV, Film Notes

Film review – The Forever Purge

My notes on The Forever Purge In terms of representing America the way it is right now, The Forever Purge does a better job than Nomadland.  Though it’s still kind of blah in the way the series has been since it has had to compete with current events – the hinge-point being that The Purge Election Year, while continuing the franchise’s vision of America as a murder machine barely held in check, still had an optimistic ending where the Trump figure wasn’t elected.  Scripted by series creator James DeMonaco and directed by Everardo Gout, whose World Cup-themed Mexican film Days of Grace earned him episode gigs like Luke Cage, The Terror and Snowpiercer, this is the January 6-referencing Purge movie.  It remains the violent action movie franchise most likely to be enjoyed by liberals, which sends off all sorts of contradictions future grindhouse academics will enjoy combing through.

The New Founding Fathers are in office again and, after a gap, the Purge is back.  This time, the focus is on a knot of characters in a Texas town … the ranch-owning anglo Tuckers – patriarch Caleb (Will Patton), shaky son and heir Dylan (Josh Lucas), spunky sis Harper (Leven Rambin), pregnant d-i-l Cassidy (Cassidy Freeman) – and immigrant couple Juan (Tenoch Huerta), a skilled cowboy, and Adela (Ana de la Reguera), a cook with backstory action woman skills that come in handy.  The opening stretch is familiar, highlighting characters and conflicts and signposting which folks are going to go bad and which will have to fight back or die, then the Purge happens with the good folks hunkered down in bunkers.  But when the all-clear sounds, the violence doesn’t stop and there’s a ‘Forever Purge’ movement which, after an early bit of workers-taking-control-of-the-ranch banditry that’d be more radical if the leader (Will Brittain) wasn’t a  psycho, turns into a crowd of masked white supremacists (many with confederate flags, a few with not-quite-MAGA red hats) trying to eliminate minorities.

It captures that Capitol Insurrection shock – just as it seems society is relieved that the horror is over, the dread kicks in again and we’re forced to realise that a great percentage of the US actually like the terror and license of the old regime and regard themselves as patriots for not letting it end.  The development of the plot is as clunky as most in the series, and you can tag the surplus characters doomed not to make it early on, and it continues in no way to represent how people would actually react to the contrived dystopian gimmick – the Forever Purgers are actually more credible than the back-to-normals of previous films who are seemingly able to suppress grief, rage and a desire for vengeance at seeing their loved ones’ murderers parading around untouched by the law.  But Gout is an exciting filmmaker and stages the chases (one references that Trump bikers harass a Biden campaign bus incident of 2020) and fights very well, making good use of the Texas setting.

In one of the most on-the-nose strokes in the whole blunt series, the Indians sort of ride to the rescue in a climax which involves refugees (explicitly named Dreamers) making their way across the border to Mexico.  Zahn McClarnon, the current go-to Native American character actor superstar, does a lot with minimal material, fighting a war his people have been in for 500 years.  The villains of Purge movies tend to be masked one-offs, and not to last more than a scene or two – like the bunny-headed creeps who rig up a Saw-type trap with a goar cage and a bolt-gun, but this does build up something like an antagonist in white trash vigilante Dalton Levay (Joshua Dov) – unpack that character name, folks – who is especially keen on murdering minorities after his equally hateful mom (Annie Little) gets killed in a skirmish.  Presumably, what’s up next will be Global Purge.


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