The Forever Purge movie review: Yet another feckless power fantasy in the franchise
The Forever Purge leverages the deep-seated unease in a politically divided America to peddle exploitative power fantasies.
castAna De La Reguera, Tenoch Huerta, Josh Lucas, Will Patton, Cassidy Freeman
directorEverardo Valerio Gout
If you could commit any crime and get away with it, what would it be? Raid the Criterion closet? Sneak into Area 51? Let’s think bigger. Rob a bank? Or perhaps steal the money going into the Purge movies and give it to Claire Denis and David Lynch to make whatever they want to make. Hell, you could pull off any or all of these with government sanction in the Purge-verse. But James DeMonaco’s American dystopia presumes most would rather take part in a murderous free-for-all.
The Purge franchise itself has truly got away with murder. What began as a home invasion horror has turned into wholesale societal trolling. Satire, this is not. Being a series about slaughter-fests, it’s got about as much subtlety as a sledgehammer. Which can surprisingly be a strength. In the latest but not final instalment The Forever Purge, director Everardo Gout stages a scene which is a real rib-tickler because it’s so gleefully over-the-top. An apprehended neo-Nazi with a swastika tattooed on his face virtually gets a boner as he hears a torrent of guns firing outside. What may be BANG and BOOM to us is a distinct sound to him, as he singles out the weapon it’s been fired from. “AR-15. Listen to that rhythm. That is a Glock. Listen to that bass. Double-barrel shotgun. AK-47. Homegrown music from the heartland right there. That is American music.”
Indeed, the series was imagined as a nightmarish extension of America’s enduring obsession with guns. The conceit remains the same: For 12 hours each year, citizens can use all sorts of weapons to commit all sorts of crimes up to murder - without repercussions. The ruling party, New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA), believed it offered them a chance to cleanse all the rage that had bottled up over the year. The true, far more nefarious, purpose of the Purge revealed itself over the series: to cull the poor and disadvantaged. So, this is not catharsis, but a means of population control. The NFFA are Social Darwinists. Big surprise!
The franchise’s success is such that even people who haven’t seen the movies now associate the word “purge” with them. It’s got a strange staying power, as five movies and two seasons of TV will attest. The first movie was mostly a throwaway comment on how gun manufacturers market a culture that trades on fear. We see this fear-for-profit model in effect when all the wealthy people spend the Purge night behind state-of-the-art home security systems, while those who can’t afford them are mercilessly killed. In the new movie, a ranch owner gives his workers “Purge protection bonuses” so they can use the money to buy sanctuary in a warehouse secured by armed guards.
With Trump coming to power by stoking fear and hatred against the Other, the comment got broader as the extremist targets became bigger. In the sights this time around are the most hateful of America’s extremists. Their bloodlust extends beyond the sanctioned dusk-till-dawn event. Averse to deadlines, rogue militias lead a co-ordinated attack to keep Purging till the country has been “purified.” Waving their “Ever After” flags and wearing horned hats, they bring to mind the insurgents who breached the US Capitol earlier this year.
Exploiting the divisive rhetoric, the US arms industry has consistently endorsed visions of social unrest and potential civil war to drive gun owners to buy more guns. They then formed militias to protect their way of life, their whole identity based on the constitutional right to own and bear arms. The “Forever Purgers” seem like their descendants. But what they want is less clear. They seem to hate the ruling classes, the middle and the minorities. Perhaps they watched Todd Phillips’ Joker, and simply wanted to introduce a little anarchy and upset the established order.
Hoping to leave the violence of Mexican cartels behind, Adela (Ana de la Reguera) and Juan (Tenoch Huerta) had come to America through an underground tunnel spanning the Texas–Mexico border. Come Purge night, they can’t wait to get back. In the six months between, Adela worked as a supervisor at a meat processing plant, while Juan worked as a ranch hand for the wealthy Tucker family. His skills as a horse whisperer impresses everyone on the farm including the patriarch Caleb (Will Patton), but not so much his son, Dylan (Josh Lucas), who feels emasculated in Juan’s presence. Dylan’s got a pregnant wife Cassie (Cassidy Freeman) simply so the question can be asked: would you want to bring a child into such a world? The white characters cover the whole spectrum of racism. Some deal in microaggressions, some in isolationism.
In The Purge: Election Year, the NFFA were soundly defeated by President Charlie Roan, whose first act was to end the Purge. Eight years later, they are back in power, and they have repealed the act forthwith. Before Forever Purging becomes the status quo, anxious Americans attempt to flee across the border to Canada and Mexico. To do so in one piece, they must team up. In their way are bikers and militias, and the US military sent to shoot anyone armed on sight. Unlike the previous movies, the purge doesn’t end overnight. So, most of the bloodshed occurs in broad daylight. This and the Texas setting help Gout stage a high-noon wild-west shootout in the climax.
The Purge movies take an anti-gun stance while luxuriating in the thrill of a good, clean headshot. The bad guys here treat life like it runs on GTA rules: anyone and everyone is target practice. In its broad aim, the movies don't really nail the bullseye on any target. And The Forever Purge is simply the latest in this never-ending franchise to leverage the deep-seated unease in a politically divided America to peddle exploitative power fantasies.
The Forever Purge is currently available in Indian cinemas
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