The Forever Purge (3 stars)

The Forever Purge

Chaos returns to America in the fifth instalment of the popular action-horror franchise

'That's American music, motherfucker,' a neo-Nazi observes admiringly, as the sound of gunfire rings out from around the police van he's travelling in. The fifth instalment of creator James DeMonaco's wildly popular Purge franchise takes the chaos up a notch, whilst keeping the social commentary coming. Given that the fourth in the series (2018's The First Purge) was a prequel, the latest follows on from the events of the third film (2016's Election Year), whose conclusion brought an end to the annual purge nights.

Directed by Mexican helmer Everardo Gout and unfolding eight years on in 2048, The Forever Purge sees the New Founding Fathers of America re-elected. They immediately reinstate this supposedly cathartic ritual, which legalises crime for one night a year, with emergency services suspended for the duration. This time the Purge spills out into the aftermath of the government-sanctioned barbarism, which it turns out gives people a taste of consequence-free carnage that they don't want to surrender.

Set in Texas, it follows Mexican migrants Adela and Juan (Ana de la Reguera and Tenoch Huerta), who we see being led into the US under the border wall at the outset and, some time later, excelling in their low-paid professions as a supervisor at a meat processing plant and a ranch hand. We also meet the wealthy clan that owns the ranch in question: well-meaning patriarch Mr Tucker (Will Patton), his apparently racist son Dylan (Josh Lucas), his more fair-minded daughter Harper (Leven Rambin), and Dylan's rather sweet and heavily pregnant wife Cassidy (Cassidy Freeman). These two very different families must come together to survive the threat from white supremacists Ever After, who are looking to 'purify' America.

The Forever Purge was shot in late 2019 / early 2020 and had its release date pushed back a year due to Covid-19. It might be a little late to the party with a story that revolves around the border wall – an issue that was inflamed during Donald Trump's thankfully fairly short-lived presidency – but with America and beyond still deeply divided, the depiction of racial tensions continues to be painfully relevant, while the real footage from the storming of the US Capitol earlier this year could have been taken from this film.

Originally intended as the franchise's final instalment, the film makes no bones about its blunt instrument approach and there's certainly no shortage of excitement, with gun battles, screechingly loud jump scares and masked menacers around every corner. Exploring the idea that you can't turn lawlessness on and off again works well, and Southern gun culture also makes for a fitting backdrop.

There's not a lot of nuance to the characterisations or dialogue but it's crisply shot and passionately performed and the pro-immigration stance is hard to argue with – it should feel odd that a film which revels in violence is also looking to teach us lessons about getting along, but Gout and DeMonaco somehow pull it off. If it's as crude as ever, The Forever Purge builds its dystopian nightmare on a foundation of ugly truth; however demented the story gets, it has humanity's number.

Available to watch in cinemas from Friday 16 July.

The Forever Purge

  • 3 stars
  • 2021
  • US
  • 1h 43min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Everardo Gout
  • Written by: James DeMonaco
  • Cast: Ana de la Reguera, Tenoch Huerta, Josh Lucas, Cassidy Freeman, Leven Rambin, Alejandro Edda, Will Patton
  • UK release: 16 July 2021

As the annual Purge draws to a close, a group of violent marauders decides that it should go on forever. The madness continues and the United States begins to disintegrate.