'The Forever Purge' Review: Goes out with a bang

Everardo Gout’s 'The Forever Purge' takes violence outside the government's sanctioned window, as America loses total control to the monsters it empowers.

Everyone wants to be a cowboy in 'The Forever Purge.'
(Image: © Unviersal Pictures)

What to Watch Verdict

'The Forever Purge' is more action than horror and it's proficient enough at both, but the gunslinger aesthetic looks good on the franchise as it succinctly rails against the last four years with a vengeance.


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    🤠 Purge outfits on fleek.

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    🤠 Ana de la Reguera with a gun.

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    🤠 Political commentary aim is steady.


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    🤠 Horror is a bit washed out.

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    🤠 Lack of subtlety still struggles in spots.

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    🤠 Those VFX, yikes.

In a continuation of the franchise’s legacy, The Forever Purge celebrates the Trump administration’s death with the subtlety of a diss from Ru Paul—not like any Purge has ever opted for subtle aggression. The First Purge emphatically targeted Trump talking points (slash despicable quotes) as early as 2018. It exposed America’s disregard for minority communities as a starting point for governmental ruthlessness, while Everardo Gout’s border warfare commemorates hatred thriving loud and proud. James DeMonaco’s screenplay imagines a world where Trump’s fearmongering pays off and emboldens radicals to purify this great nation of its multicultural "invaders" within the context of Purge activities. It’s a sick simulation; awful stuff sold as exploitation cinema. Still, I’ll be damned if there’s not a bit of hope loaded into the chamber as shots against “Making America Great Again” ring like a battlefield symphony.

The obviousness of its condemnation aimed towards the last four years is, as a friend put it, agreeably “cathartic”—but as a cinematic package? I’m still struggling to overlook some atrocious VFX shots and am stuck between DeMonaco’s protest either losing or gaining impact with the bloodshed on display.

The film starts with Adela (Ana de la Reguera) and her husband Juan (Tenoch Huerta) crossing Mexico’s border with prosperous American dreams. Juan finds employment as a ranch hand for Texan Caleb (Will Patton), where he’s belittled by maybe-unaccepting son Dylan (Josh Lucas). Adela feeds into America's melting pot of diversity as a learning experience, but Juan stays hesitant, especially during their first Purge experience. All is well as the conclusion alarm blares. Civilians return to their regular routines—until masked marauders continue killing to send a message of anarchy. The only hope for Juan, Dyan, and their families? To flee America for Mexico, which has opened its borders while domestic terrorists overrun our nation's capitals.

We’re not grasping at straws in terms of narrative conveyance.

My issue stems from the plainly gunsmoke distortion of America's marketable dream—something done with a bit more creativity in, say, Culture Shock—but when has any Purge film ever shoehorned its messages versus forceful shoves? DeMonaco’s guilty of showing versus telling too often throughout each entry, so it's encouraging to see The Forever Purge accomplish some unexpectedly sharp telling as Adela and Juan represent compassionate American ideals better than any of the caucasian barbarians disgracing the flag. Some sequences speak through predictable bloodshed, whether that’s classist comeuppance or extreme oppression (less attractive). In contrast, others allow characters a brief monologue to spit in the faces of those who use yearly Purges as an excuse to cleanse. It’s a ridiculous, on-the-nose bit, but dare I admit a swell of adrenaline when everyday bystanders raise arms against the Forever Purgers and their violent agenda?

The Forever Purge chases that violent agenda with more violence, be it headshots, machete swings, or blasted tank artillery. However, I wouldn’t classify the film as unwatchably gory, although it’s disturbing in its executions because of the rhetoric uttered before or after. A lot of “Br*wnies” or “Bad Hombre” dialect comes from Southerners who spend their “Purge Protection Bonuses” on skeletal masks, scoped rifles, and revolutionary-era weapons. Acts of brutality are saved for impact as Dylan drives his impenetrable eighteen-wheeler cab towards El Paso, past unruly mobs while ammunition dings off its exterior like a dinner bell on repeat. Purifiers die the worst—no question—because that’s how DeMonaco offers compensation for the last four years. Oh, look, that confliction is back once again.

I’m not one to besmirch a Josh Lucas role and won’t start now. Dylan’s the rawhide, lone ranger who “accepts everyone” but would rather “Americans” stay separate all the same, forced to rethink his mantras next to Juan and Adela. Cassidy Freeman stars opposite Lucas as Dylan’s pregnant wife, which in my opinion never adds intrigue to a survival scenario—even you, A Quiet Place—but her nervousness over introducing life into a Purge-friendly country adds an outrageous contextual layer during the finale. Of course, this is Tenoch Huerta and Ana de la Reguera’s spotlight to share. By that, I mean Ana de la Reguera runs away as the once militant cartel hunter now punishing these "pure-blooded patriots" who probably think themselves the next Teddy Rosevelt. In the Purge universe, you can get away with “Translate this!” zingers before burning a slug between some white supremacist's eyes and it works, especially when someone like Huerta or Reguera pulls the trigger.

Then we endure some hideous visual effects as cameras pull to reveal burning cities that might have looked better in SimCity on Mac, and I’m back to struggling with The Forever Purge. Maybe not as much as when I began this review? Still, Everardo Gout proves a kinetic director in bursts, whether that’s suburban defensive standoffs or a very The Warriors meets The Town That Dreaded Sundown vibe in terms of (rad) costume coordination, but cohesion is a lacking factor. Characters flee from certain death in a very questionable ‘80s action inexplicability because The Forever Purge is always about sending a warning to those who fantasize about the capital siege going differently. Although, after the last few years? I’ve become even more entertained by videos of fed-up bystanders punching Nazis in their faces. Translate that to The Forever Purge’s “one color” wingnuts, and maybe you’ll find the catharsis that has overtaken this closing paragraph?

Matt Donato

Matt Donato is a Rotten Tomatoes approved film critic who stays up too late typing words for What To Watch, IGN, Paste, Bloody Disgusting, Fangoria and countless other publications. He is a member of Critics Choice and co-hosts a weekly livestream with Perri Nemiroff called the Merri Hour. You probably shouldn't feed him after midnight, just to be safe.