When people talk about Texas, especially people not from Texas, they talk about cowboys. Those cowboys look like country singers and never have brown skin. But the truth is, Texas and our cowboy culture is defined by the vaqueros who taught everyone coming to the state—which was then Mexico—how to be, well, a cowboy. In fact, my home city, San Antonio, is 70% Latinx, and 90% of that community is Mexican American. This reality, one where our state exists in Spanish as much as it does in English and where white cowboy culture was built on the backs of my ancestors, is why I was immediately drawn to Universal and Blumhouse’s latest entry into its Purge franchise: The Forever Purge.
Directed by Everardo Gout and written by James DeMonaco, The Forever Purge stars Ana de la Reguera, Tenoch Huerta, Josh Lucas, Cassidy Freeman, Leven Rambin, Alejandro Edda, and Will Patton. In the eighth installment in the series, the film pushes into new territory—a purge that doesn’t end when the alarm sounds the next morning. In the film, Adela (Ana de la Reguera) and her husband Juan (Tenoch Huerta) live in Texas, where Juan works as a ranch hand for the wealthy Tucker family. Juan impresses the Tucker patriarch, Caleb (Will Patton), but that fuels the jealous anger of Caleb’s son, Dylan (Josh Lucas), who is very obviously racist. On the morning after The Purge, a masked gang of killers attacks the Tucker family—including Dylan’s wife (Cassidy Freeman) and his sister (Leven Rambin)—forcing both families to band together and fight back as the country spirals into chaos and the United States begins to disintegrate around them.
The Forever Purge isn’t subtle. In fact, it’s about as subtle as blaring alarm. It’s violent, and the racism it shows will be hard for some to watch; it was even hard for me up to a certain point. But for some reason, the idea of a racist Purge Purification squad spouting xenophobic remarks about stopping foreigners from “raping and pillaging” America was less terrifying than the fact that I’ve heard that rhetoric in Texan political ads. This film is going to be a hit or miss for many. Violence against brown bodies in a time when trauma against our communities is still rampant is a lot to take in. But throughout the film, I’m reminded that this state is ours, and we continue to cultivate it. Somehow, it felt good to see a narrative that pushes back against white cowboys who think this culture and this state only belongs to them, even if only a little.
The film’s focus is about the small group trying to make it to the safe haven that is Mexico, escaping a Purge that doesn’t end and has the purpose of attacking and killing all non-white people. The heroes of our story a trio of Mexicans in Texas and the white family they’ve been kind enough to save—even if one of them seems to be racist. This makes the film’s focus on violence tackle more than just creative kills and instead has its heroes directly confront the xenophobia that was championed by Trump and has been in place with Governor Greg Abbott’s push to “build a wall.” Now, there are points that you can’t handle with a sledgehammer — even if the film tries to. For example, class inequality as a reason for anxiety — and to mask racism — shows itself in this film as the fuel for the Forever After Purge. But the layers to it aren’t peeled back nearly enough, making this b-plotlesque area better left out than in.
Additionally, though, there are also moments where the film manages to address smaller elements. Specifically using exposition that tells the audience truths about Texas, like how it is literally impossible to build a wall across the entire border and how Texas itself has a long tradition rooted in Indigenous heritage. What seem like small moments that pass by quickly are things that stuck out to me. But more importantly, they show there is a heart and a message to the film.
That said, The Forever Purge is a solid action film, and every action film needs a lead to ground it. That’s Huerta as Juan. Through him, we see a larger narrative that showcases resilience in the face of violence. As an indigenous Mexican actor, Huerta has been outspoken against colorism and racism in Mexico, a piece of Mexican culture that is pervasive for US-born communities as well. This makes his status as the film’s hero all the more important. Juan is tenacious and knows his worth. He won’t bow to the racist men around him and remains the center of the story. Huerta is intimidating and empathetic at the same time, making him stand out from the rest of the cast.
But just because Huerta is the standout doesn’t mean that the supporting cast shouldn’t be mentioned. In fact, everyone in The Forever Purge is a thrill to see on screen, and the action chemistry between all of them makes the film enjoyable, to say the least.
Ultimately though, The Forever Purge is just a fun film for those already engrossed with the franchise and those looking for high octane fights and surprising kills. But what makes this installment shine is the absurdity it brings to the plate, showcasing that it knows the franchise it is attached to and uses it to tell a story pointing to a larger issue. But, The Forever Purge remains an action-thriller to dive into and really shows that even at this number in the series, the mythos of The Purge still has new things to add.
The Forever Purge is available now in theaters nationwide.
The Forever Purge
The Forever Purge remains an action-thriller to dive into and really shows that even at this number in the series, the mythos of The Purge still has new things to add.