Assassination Nation: A frantic orgy of satirical violence

Review: Plenty of films try to deconstruct the online life but few have dug as deeply as this

Assassination Nation - official trailer.

Odessa Young, Suki Waterhouse, Hari Nef, and Abra in Assassination Nation

Film Title: Assassination Nation

Director: Sam Levinson

Starring: Odessa Young, Suki Waterhouse, Hari Nef, Abra, Bill Skårsgard, Bella Thorne, Joel McHale

Genre: Drama

Running Time: 108 min

Thu, Nov 22, 2018, 15:30

   

This frantic orgy of satirical violence begins with “trigger warnings” for “sexism”, “toxic masculinity”, “male gaze” and other unpleasantness. The script is uneasy about such priggish warnings but – as morally righteous as anything so exploitative could be – it genuinely cares about the degradation of modern society.

Assassination Nation is rare in having a trans woman (Harif Nef is first rate as Bex) as a key character, but it derives a few sniggers from her always completing the full “LGBTQIA” when discussing her sexuality. In short, there’s a lot going on here.

Director and writer Sam Levinson (yes, Barry’s son) gets a little close to the nose when he sets his drama in a town called Salem. Society is about to curdle and young women will be sacrificed to restore order. Get the reference?

In the modern day, rather than cows dying or crops failing, evil comes in the form of an internet hacker. First the hypocritical mayor, a strict moralist, is revealed to have a secret gay sex life. Fair enough, you may say. The hacker goes on to publish the internet history of everyone from the decent school principal to variously decadent school students. Eventually, a party of young women come to be blamed. Nooses are strung from lamp-posts.

Online life

Cinematic deconstructions of online life are not thin on the ground – last year’s Ingrid goes West was excellent – but few have dug so deeply into current discontents.

Featuring Instagram-friendly split-screens, Assassination Nation posits that none of us can “live by the standards [we] set” for ourselves and argues that our browser history proves the point. One of the girls shrugs and notes that: “privacy is just dead” and that only the old fail to grasp this.

The messages are conveyed by a dizzying mass of violent, sexual images – some leering in the style of Larry Clark – that throb to an excellent score by Ian Hultquist. Bravura shots abound.

Rising chaos overpowers all lucidity in a closing act that transforms the girls too jarringly into Japanese-style “girl boss” heroes. But a brilliant last line ends the picture in queasily delightful fashion.

Stirring entertainment for robust sensibilities.

Opens November 23rd