Hot Take: There’s a lot going on here. Within the chaos, there’s a message but the film may be too bonkers to figure it out. Instead, you just might feel like it’s a smarter version of The Purge and that’s not the worst thing you could say about a movie.
If The Crucible, The Purge, Kill Bill and Mean Girls had an orgy, Assassination Nation would be it’s lovechild. Maybe that should have been my Hot Take but I chose to lead with it as it’s more than just a Hot Take when it comes to this film. Writer/director Sam Levinson has an interesting piece of work on his hands here with Assassination Nation. Personally, it didn’t completely hit the mark but it’s impossible to say it doesn’t hold your attention for 110 minutes. One part satire, one part young women’s anthem Assassination Nation takes a wide look at what happens when the shame of our private affairs becomes public and the public can’t handle it and then puts a laser focus on what that does to young women when they become the target. Doing too much may be Assassination Nation’s biggest drawback as it’s buckshot approach makes it feel hazy at times but if you hang with it long enough, it becomes more clear… and angry as hell in the process.
Assassination Nation opens with a list of trigger warnings which range from giant frogs to transphobia to toxic masculinity. The film follows four high school teens — Lily (Odessa Young), Em (Abra), Bex (Hari Nef) and Sarah (Suki Waterhouse) — as the world around them begins to crumble when a hacker takes aim at the Internet accounts of the citizens of Salem, Massachusetts. First, Mayor Bartlett (Cullen Moss), an anti-gay advocate, has photos released showing him in compromising positions with male escorts while wearing women’s clothes. The backlash is so overwhelming, Bartlett takes his own life with a revolver in front of an angry mob at a press conference. Next up is Principal Turrell (Coleman Domingo) whose hacked phone reveals pictures of his young daughter naked. While the pictures aren’t of a sexual nature, the allegations of Turrell being a pedophile have the angry mob calling for his ouster. Turrell refuses to resign but soon, the attention goes elsewhere as hundreds of Salem citizens are hacked. This causes problems for Lily and friends as Bex, a transsexual, is revealed to be having sexual relations with high school football star Diamond. One of the group’s acquaintances, Grace (Maude Apatow), discovers her best friend and the star of the cheerleading squad Reagan (Bella Thorne) was the person who spread nude pictures of her to a guy she liked. It’s also revealed that Lily has been sharing lewd pictures of herself to Nick (Joel McHale) but at the time no one knows it’s Lily because she never reveals her face. As more and more information is revealed, the town of Salem becomes enraged and the men of Salem have turned their sights on the women and the mysterious hacker who threaten to bring them down.
Admittedly, at 42, Assassination Nation has a younger vibe that I couldn’t complete relate to. It’s a rarity for me to feel my age at a movie. The last time I felt such a feeling was in 2017 when I was in the fifth row at an Ariana Grande concert. Though I was enjoying parts of Assassination Nation like I enjoyed many moments at the Ariana Grande show, it was painfully obvious neither was put together with the thought of me as an audience member. Not that there’s anything wrong with that… hell, it’s kind of refreshing in a way. There were just parts that were lost on me. While it was easy to feel sympathy for the main characters of Assassination Nation, empathy was harder to achieve. The connection to that sort of anger and suffering is nearly impossible for a middle-aged suburban white male. The film was made for a different audience as it has an anthemic quality to it despite it’s rage.
Needless to say, Assassination Nation will likely develop a niche following. There will be some who like it despite not understanding and then those who want to understand but fully can’t grasp the entire scope of the film’s message. It’s an angry movie with an angry message in a time where anger rules. The indie flick will likely make a bigger splash on the small screen though it’s easy to see this film becoming outdated quickly. It’ll be interesting to look back at Assassination Nation a year from now to see if it’s messaging holds up or makes as much sense. I’ll be 52 then and completely out of touch with what’s hip and cool so I’m likely going to have to rely on someone else to complete this exercise for me. See you in 2028.
You realize the fact that it’s still as much of a man’s world as it is is wrong and women have every right to be pissed off about it.
You’re still wearing that damn MAGA hat, aren’t you?