Genre: Action and Horror Running Time: 1 hr. 43 min.
Release Date: July 2nd, 2021 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Everardo Gout Actors: Ana de la Reguera, Tenoch Huerta, Josh Lucas, Cassidy Freeman, Leven Rambin, Will Patton, Alejandro Edda, Sammi Rotibi
f there’s a problem, follow the roses,” hints a young boy as he leads a group of illegal immigrants fleeing cartels in Mexico and other South American countries, snaking through sewer tunnels into the United States. Ten months later, in Los Feliz Valley, Texas, just before the annual Purge night, migrant Adela (Ana de la Reguera) now works at a meat processing plant under manager Darius Bryant (Sammi Rotibi), which affords her a simple home with her husband Juan (Tenoch Huerta), who comparably works as a manual laborer at Caleb Tucker’s (Will Patton) massive smart-phone-controlled ranch. However, with the Purge looming, America isn’t necessarily the paradise – or safe haven – it’s made out to be.
“I hate the damn Purge. It’s hard to be social on that night.” At Tucker’s stables, his prejudiced son Dylan (Josh Lucas) pokes at Juan, hoping to assert his dominance over the hired hand, as he was previously embarrassed by Juan’s skills with a spirited horse. When a dinner guest that night suggests that her maid’s relative is worth meeting, Dylan promptly and bluntly refuses, reenforcing the notion that his elite family has no need to mingle with “others.” But the tables are about to turn, as Dylan and his pregnant wife Cassie (Cassidy Freeman), along with his sister Harper (Leven Rambin), will need to depend on the kindness of others to survive not only the Purge night, but a coordinated “ever after” Purge that refuses to cease.
“Purging is American” reads a sign on a shop wall. As with a previous entry, “The Purge: Election Year,” there’s a very pointed, relevant political message (not so) hidden amid the silliness and violence of the Purging premise. The immigration crisis is at the forefront here, with broadly drawn stereotypes utilized to illustrate extreme beliefs, many of which are actually ripped-from-the-headlines quotes about misguided nationalism and patriotism (and the overtly racist concept of purification). Thought-provoking commentary on the rich getting richer off the backs of the poor; fragile senses of identity being eroded by foreign presences; cultural and ideological ignorances; hate and fear overtaking all other emotions; and slave labor finding the opportunity to reap revenge against their wealthy masters make intermittent appearances, but it’s difficult to take the very real types of relationships seriously in the context of excessively chaotic anarchy. This is all painfully far away from smart satire.
Even with the ironic swapping of the U.S. and Mexico’s border situations (the phrase “American Dreamers” is uttered at one point) – yet another potent notion largely lost to over-the-top bloodshed – the use of elaborately intimidating makeup and costumes (such as cowboy gear and bunny suits) lends to laughs rather than shocks. Cheesy jump scares abound as well, often instigated by innocuous sources. And once the film’s primary group of protagonists stage their escape through war-torn El Paso, the film adopts a video game vibe, chiefly through over-the-shoulder camerawork and intense, rat-a-tat shoot-outs.
Problematically, the main characters are too bland to create much of an impression; heroes are largely defined by their ability to survive, while villains are designated by spouting words of hate and bigotry or wielding blood-soaked munitions. In the third-act desert environs, action sequences begin to resemble the battles of Mad Max. Fortunately, a few stunts are nicely staged, while a cathartic kill or two generate mild amusement. But as far as Purge movies go – and the bar is pretty low – this one isn’t as effective or memorable as it could have been.
– Mike Massie