Assassination Nation: Film Review

Assassination Nation was one of the films on my watch list for the London Film Festival and I was gutted to miss it at the time but it turns out I didn’t miss out on too much, because it was cool but very messy.

The film stars Odessa Young as Lily, who is part of a friendship group with Em (Abra), Sarah (Suki Waterhouse) and Bex (Hari Nef). Young is in a long term relationship with Mark (Bill Skarsgaard) but she is sexting an unknown older man she calls ‘Daddy’ on the quiet. However, her secret is soon exposed when a computer hacker leaks the phone data of many of the town’s residents, causing the town to descend into chaos and violence. The leaders of this mob become convinced Lily is behind the leak and are determined to make her pay.

Assassination Nation is ballsy, brash and full of ideas. It has an obvious feminist message – for example, like how Lily is treated for being ‘a slut’ and when she gives a speech about how breasts shouldn’t be seen as explicit in artwork. These themes and messages were cool and some bits are so frank and honest I couldn’t help but laugh or smile. It is stylish and loud and cool to look at but the overall narrative sometimes gets lost in these ideas.

I really liked the first half of the film when we were introduced to the girls, the high school politics and the leaks start happening. The second half of the film descends into gross, bloody violence and chaos and was a pretty uncomfortable watch. It gave me Tarantino vibes and also made me think of The Purge, the way residents of a small town take matters into their own hands. Given that this is set in Salem, there are very obvious parallels to the witch hunts. At first I was worried that these women would be the victims of horrific violence and it would undo the message from earlier on but thankfully not – they get to kick ass. This section is very thrilling and gripping and I was on the edge of my seat a couple of times.

Young was a cool, fun lead and probably the only one we really get to know. Bex has some depth, as a boy she fancies wants her to keep their fling a secret because she’s transgender (but luckily there’s more to her than just ‘being transgender’) but I could not tell you much about Em or Sarah, which is a shame because I really wanted to form an opinion on Waterhouse’s acting but she did hardly anything. You are supposed to back these girls, but I didn’t care for them much at all (except Bex), although I wanted them to survive and get revenge on the townspeople trying to kill them.

Most characters are thinly drawn, like Bella Thorne who basically acted like herself while playing bitchy cheerleader Reagan. I liked Maude Apatow as Grace and Colman Domingo as Principal Turrell, they were sympathetic characters and I want more of them, while Tony Hale has a small yet juicy part, showing a side to himself I’d never seen before.

Assassination Nation is a fun and light high school comedy-drama with a strong feminist message in the beginning before it goes completely wild – as the townspeople go nuts and start killing each other, the film itself becomes a bit of a mess and didn’t achieve the satisfying conclusion I was hoping for.

Note: Make sure you stay for the credits to watch a marching band cover Miley Cyrus’ We Can’t Stop!

In selected cinemas Friday 23rd November 

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