TIFF 2018 Assassination Nation Review

TIFF 2018: Assassination Nation Review

Midnight Madness 

Assassination Nation starts with a bang. Actually it starts with a trigger warning, and this is about where the film peaks.

Sam Levinson’s dark comedy/ thriller about an entire town that gets hacked and the four teenaged girls who bare the brunt of the incident is directed with panache, but ultimately has very little say about the variety of hot topics it exploits (privacy, slut shaming, transphobia, toxic masculinity, gun control…). Levinson sucks you in with a slick aesthetic, some great split screen editing, inventive camera movements and one particularly impressive long take. But about halfway through the film, when all logic is obliterated and things go from zero to murder real quick, it becomes less like something Bret Easton Ellis might identify with and more like the latest entry in The Purge franchise, complete with gimmicky masks  and an omnipresence of the star spangled banner (because you know, America and stuff). Oh and the town is Salem, Massachusetts, so I guess there’s something about witches and witch hunts in there too.

This is one of those uncomfortable, nihilistic films that assumes the worst in everyone. At least the young cast, particularly leads Odessa Young and Hari Nef, do an admirable job of grounding their underdeveloped characters. This, combined with Levinson’s wizbang directing, could easily dupe some angsty high schoolers into thinking Assassination Nation is worthy of becoming a future cult classic, but when I was 16 we all thought Fight Club was the greatest film ever made, so…