Assassination Nation (18)



Thriller (2018)
108mins US

Starring: Suki Waterhouse, Odessa Young, Hari Nef, Abra
Director: Sam Levinson
Writer(s): Sam Levinson
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland

Lily and best friends Bex, Em and Sarah attend the same high school, where they keep one mascaraed eye on the various social media channels that dictate what - and who - is hot. A mysterious hacker with the screen handle Er0str4us leaks the sexual peccadillos of Mayor Bartlett with sickening consequences. High school principal Turrell is also exposed for his supposed crimes and then Lily receives a threatening message: "1... 2... Er0str4us is coming for you".

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LondonNet Film Review
Assassination Nation (18)

Opening with a reverse slow-motion image of a boy riding a tricycle, which conjures memories of horror classic The Shining, Assassination Nation is a frenetic cautionary tale about the perils of baring body and soul on social media. "I will warn you, it gets pretty graphic," purrs the film's much-abused heroine during a lurid opening salvo, which promises sexism, homophobia, attempted rape, transphobia, murder and firearms galore over the next 100 minutes...

Assassination Nation. Copyright: Universal Pictures. Caption: Abra as Em, Odessa Young as Lily, Hari Nef as Bex and Suki Waterhouse as Sarah in Assassination Nation, directed by Sam Levinson. Photo: Monica Lek. All Rights Reserved.Writer-director Sam Levinson frames his blood-soaked tale of hysteria and mob rule as a 21st-century witch trial - the film's setting is Salem, Massachusetts, to hammer home the analogy. He plunders a visual grab bag previously used by Russ Meyer, Quentin Tarantino, The Purge franchise and Japanese director Shunya Ito in his Female Prisoner Scorpion film series. Levinson's audacious centrepiece is a voyeuristic home invasion, shot in a single fluid take. His camera glides around a brightly-lit property, showing us masked figures sneaking up on female residents and forcibly restraining them one by one, pressing their terrified faces against cracked glass as a friend in an adjacent room talks on a telephone or walks down a staircase into the clutches of another assailant. It's bravura film-making that might pack a bigger emotional impact if the script lavished the same attention on the characters.

Lily (Odessa Young) and best friends Bex (Hari Nef), Em (Abra) and Sarah (Suki Waterhouse) attend the same high school, where they keep one mascaraed eye on the various social media channels that dictate what - and who - is hot. A mysterious hacker with the screen handle Er0str4us leaks the sexual peccadillos of Mayor Bartlett (Cullen Moss) with sickening consequences. High school principal Turrell (Colman Domingo) is also exposed for his supposed crimes and then Lily receives a threatening message: "1... 2... Er0str4us is coming for you". A data dump of private correspondence reveals that Lily has been sending revealing photographs to married neighbour Nick Mathers (Joel McHale) behind the back of her boyfriend Mark (Bill Skarsgard). The community of Salem bays for the blood of the hacker - "We will root out this terrorist by any means necessary!" - and Lily and her gal pals unwittingly become the focal point of the mob's rage.

Assassination Nation is a relentless assault on the eyes with split screens, colour filters and hyperviolent exchanges of bullets and blades. The girls' feminist agenda becomes muddled. In one breath, Lily justifies drawing naked pictures of herself for an art project to Principal Turrell - "I was asked to draw from life. This is life!" - but she won't accept the same personal responsibility when the naked selfies she sent to her neighbour are leaked by Er0str4us. You reap what you sow and the harvest of Levinson's film is underwhelming.

- Jo Planter

Assassination Nation. Copyright: Universal Pictures. Caption: Abra as Em, Odessa Young as Lily, Hari Nef as Bex and Suki Waterhouse as Sarah in Assassination Nation, directed by Sam Levinson. Photo: Monica Lek. All Rights Reserved.


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