Situated somewhere between The Purge and Spring Breakers, femmes-ploitation flick Assassination Nation is going to attract attention for promising a bold, brash narrative with an equalled aesthetic. Unfortunately, it’s largely empty spectacle.
We follow four high school girlfriends, Lily, Bex, Sarah and Em, who live in the seedy town of Salem, now in uproar since a hacker leaked personal secret and illicit pictures of many of the town’s residents including the Mayor, the principal and Lily. The plot gives way for writer/director Sam Levinson to cover a whole lot of crucial topics including transphobia, toxic masculinity, sexuality, social media privacy and more – all listed in a “trigger warning” montage at the start of the film.
It becomes impossible for Levinson to engage with all these issues beyond a superficial level; his reach falls short of his ambitious grasp, resulting in an unsatisfactory feature that seems to be about everything when nothing really happens. Considering this, the second half is significantly better after it transforms from high school drama to revenge fantasy but peaks a little bit early, at around the 70-minute mark, with a terrific tracking shot of a home invasion. It’s the creative highlight of a movie that throws everything at the wall in a gruelling attempt to be visually enjoyable. The “cool” factor is really only in the kick-ass soundtrack, which includes a wicked leitmotif composed by Ian Hultquist and a couple of bangers by Tommy Genesis.
A violent climax followed by a pointed twist at the end doesn’t make or break the film; by then we’ve long figured out if we’re attuned to this stylish mess. For this critic, it felt anti-climactic, the feature not living up to the promise it makes in the opening that it’s going to be deeply provocative. Disappointingly, there’s nothing really challenging about this narrative despite it’s intentions. Obviously the alt-right won’t gel with it; obviously a certain subset of Tumblr will find it perfect. Assassination Nation is largely the display of a posturing filmmaker.
Assassination Nation is released nationwide on 23rd November 2018.
Watch the trailer for Assassination Nation here: