[Screen It]


(2021) (Ana De La Reguera, Josh Lucas) (R)

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Action/Thriller: Various people do what they must to survive a nationwide killing spree that's continued well past its officially mandated twelve-hour window.

Adela (ANA DE LA REGUERA) and Juan (TENOCH HUERTA) are a married couple who illegally immigrated from Mexico to the U.S. to escape retribution from drug cartels. While she works at a meatpacking plant for Darius Bryant (SAMMI ROTIBI), Juan works at a Texas ranch owned by Caleb Tucker (WILL PATTON). While that man has no issues with Mexicans such as Juan and fellow ranch hand T.T. (ALEJANDRO EDDA) working for him, his adult son, Dylan (JOSH LUCAS), does, especially after Juan non-violently breaks a wild horse that Dylan couldn't.

But that's put on the back burner for a night as they all prepare for the return of the once-annual Purge where all violent crime -- including murder -- is allowed across the nation by order of the New Founding Fathers of America. As Adela and Juan take refuge with other Mexicans and the Tucker family -- including Dylan's very pregnant wife, Cassie (CASSIDY FREEMAN), and sister, Harper (LEVEN RAMBIN) -- hunkers down, racist ranch hand Kirk (WILL BRITTAIN) prepares to get busy during The Purge.

And after it's over, as participants decide to break the rules and continue with their lawlessness and killing. All of which puts everyone at risk and then on the run, eventually needing help from Native American tribal leader Chiago Harjo (ZAHN McCLARNON). With the killing spreading and continuing unabated, those not participating do what they must to survive.

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10

Let's face it, America is at a crossroads where politics, politicians, and political issues have split the country in two. Some want changes to the long-established ways while others want "their country" back and long for the "way it used to be."

In short, they want a return to the time when only they and their kind had the power and systems in place to keep that status quo that served them and their interests. When they feel that's slipping away or, worse yet, no longer their reality, they blame any number of scapegoats, essentially meaning anyone who doesn't look like them.

That all came to a head back in January when a bunch of "victims" stormed the U.S. Capitol, seemingly determined to take back what they deemed was rightfully theirs, and if some heads needed to roll, so be it. And if you recognize that they were willing to kill elected officials (including some in their own party that they believed were traitors), you know they'd have no problem going after ordinary folks.

That's the thematic backdrop that fuels "The Forever Purge," the fifth installment of the "murder is legal for 12 hours" thriller series that debuted back in 2013 and has proved to be quite prolific. While it has nothing to do with the events of January 6th in our nation's capital in terms of the A-to-Z storyline, there's little doubt where screenwriter James DeMonaco and director Everardo Gout stand on the matter in general.

And much of that focuses on a married Mexican couple -- Adela (Ana De La Reguera) and Juan (Tenoch Huerta) -- who've illegally entered the U.S. and now ten months later have done a decent enough job assimilating into life in Texas. While she works at a meatpacking plant and is something of a mentor to others like her who've since come along, he's landed a job as a ranch hand for a family ranch owned by Caleb (Will Patton).

That patriarch appreciates the newcomer's work ethic (and horse whisperer abilities), but that sentiment isn't shared by his adult son, Dylan (Josh Lucas), or another ranch hand, Kirk (Will Brittain), who view the Mexican as an invasive species. But they all have a bigger, immediate concern -- albeit more of an inconvenience for the ranch family that includes Dylan's sister, Harper (Leven Rambin), and very pregnant wife, Cassie (Cassidy Freeman) -- due to the recent reinstatement of the annual Purge.

For those who haven't seen any of the previous four installments, it's a 12-hour, government-sanctioned event where lawlessness -- including murder -- is allowed. And it's been brought back by those who believe a border wall is a less effective solution for curbing illegal immigration.

And thus, everyone hunkers down and when the twelve hours are up, so go the metal shutters and the clean-up of blood and bodies begins. But then everyone quickly realizes that the purgers are no longer abiding by the rules and keep on killing, thus necessitating Adela's boss, Darius (Sammi Rotibi), to save her from two bunny mask killers who've lured her into their trap. And Juan and his fellow Mexican ex-pat, T.T. (Alejandro Edda), do the same in saving Dylan and his family. Or at least most of them.

After that, they do what they can to survive there and in their subsequent travels that eventually have them headed for the Mexican border. You know, in an ironic way as they hope to flee violence in their country and seek safety and hope in another one. Yes, like most of its predecessors, this offering operates in parable land. But at its heart, it's an action-laced survival flick where, once again, the most dangerous predator is man (and woman).

In that vein, the action and suspense are handled well, and the performances are generally good for this sort of flick. And while it's certainly far from novel, considering its timeliness in terms of theme and messaging, it feels like it's the best of the bunch, decently mixing messaging with action escapism. For that, "The Forever Purge" rates as a 6 out of 10.

Reviewed June 30, 2021 / Posted July 2, 2021

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