(KGET) — Offerings in the dystopian film genre tend to embrace the concept that an endless parade of bloodier and more inventive ways of dying is enough to entertain an audience. The lack of originality is obscured by the endless series of things that go bump in the night.
Then came the “Purge” franchise that managed to rise above the typical onslaught of violence and mayhem to use violence as the catalyst to accent – and not drive – a well-crafted tale of terror.
Since the release of “The Purge” in 2013, the films have focused on tension more than violence. The chief concept behind the films has been that there is a time limit to the violence. All criminal acts are OK but only within a 12-hour timeframe. Having a finite period forces the viewer to be more concerned about watching the clock than focusing on the acts of violence.
That was the case with the first four films in the franchise. Unfortunately, the latest offering of “The Forever Purge” does away with that time deadline. Without it and the deep tension it creates, the latest “Purge” film is left with nothing to separate it from the bloody stream of mundane movies in the genre.
What has replaced this clever plot approach is a thinly veiled attempt to capitalize on the tensions currently gripping this country. The film’s deep dive into racism comes across as manipulative, trite and uninspired.
Adela (Ana de la Reguera) and her husband Juan (Tenoch Huerta) have crossed the border from Mexico and are living in southern Texas. Juan has landed a job as a ranch hand for the wealthy Tucker family.
The Tucker family is divided in regards to immigrants. The Tucker patriarch, Caleb (Will Patton) is impressed with the work Juan has been doing and believes all people should be treated fairly. His son, Dylan (Josh Lucas), is not happy with the way immigrants are changing his life.
They all face and survive the annual Purge. They didn’t expect that a well-organized group determined to eliminate all foreigners would have decided to keep the Purge going. The only way for Adela, Juan and the Tuckers to survive is to join forces to make their way to safety.
This 180-degree turn in concept isn’t the aftermath of someone taking over the franchise that director James DeMonaco had cultivated so well as the director of the first three films and the writer of all five movies. DeMonaco made the decision to create the script that guts the production of all originality.
The other “Purge” films often dipped into elements of social satire with politics, religion and social status. There was a broader approach to the kinds of ills of the world that would make anyone accept a situation as the sanctioned committing of crimes.
DeMonaco’s script for “The Forever Purge” ignores any subtle attempt at presenting a message and goes for the blatant and obvious. The fact there have been five films and a TV series based on the concept finally shows that it is time to take a break.
“The Forever Purge” director Everardo Gout does the best he can with the lackluster story he has been given. There are several big action sequences including one in the streets of El Paso that pulls the viewer into the film so closely that you will almost feel the heat of the explosions.
Gout does a good job handling all of the big action elements despite his background being in directing television shows. The problem he can’t overcome is that without that time element finish line that made the other “Purge” movies work so well, his film just plods along until it runs out of steam.
The strongest part of the film are the characters played by Reguera and Huerta. Adela is a woman who can take care of herself, often not the case in these kinds of movies. Give the movie credit for having strong female characters. There’s also a sweet relationship between her character and the one played by Huerta.
The rest of the cast merely fill the stereotypical roles of such films. There’s the bigot who learns his lesson, the pregnant woman who must be brave and the chief villain who is overly melodramatic.
A few good performances and decent action scenes produce a mild form of entertainment. The elimination of the time frame that made the “Purge” films work so well keeps it from rising any higher. In its present form, “The Forever Purge” is proof it is time to purge the franchise.
“The Forever Purge” opens in theaters July 2.
“The Forever Purge”
Cast: Ana de la Reguera, Tenoch Huerta, Josh Lucas, Cassidy Freeman, Levin Rambin.
Director: Everardo Gout
Rated: R for bloody violence, language
Running time: 103 minutes.