In today’s volatile social climate, some movies will end up making some form of social commentary even when it is not intended. Then there are the films whose only goal is to deliver a powerful message. Set in the small town of Salem, 2018’s Assassination Nation is the story of how an entire town takes it upon themselves to cleanse itself after four high school girls are accused of destroying lives via the Internet and social media.
The synopsis will immediately warn its audience that Assassination Nation is not a subtle movie. A modern take on the Salem witch trials is an interesting idea. In an era where a person can sincerely defend a movement that opposes inclusivity and in the same breath explain why it is okay to refer to a successful woman as a “cum dumpster,” it is also very topical. Regrettably, writer and director Sam Levinson never lets his film become more than just a good idea.Assassination Nation is content to skewer society’s reliance on technology by having the cast speak in internet slang. Characters constantly will say “hashtag [insert word]” or “OMG” but instead of sounding relevant it just comes off as obnoxious. The movie quickly borders on becoming a parody of itself, especially since it insists on taking itself so seriously. This is most obvious in the character of Regan, a cheerleader who feels that her selfies on “Insta” change people’s lives in a positive way. In any other movie, this type of character would be played as comic relief (and to be clear, the other characters here do not take her seriously), but in Assassination Nation she is played as less of a joke and more of a statement.
The movie also tries so hard to be current that it constantly sounds passé. In today’s fast moving world, it is nearly impossible to stay up to date with the most current slang. However, Assassination Nation is supposed to make us look inward. It’s funny when your grandmother says her cooking is “on fleek.” It’s sad when a purportedly topical movie uses outdated net speak. Nowhere is this more clear than in the tragically unfunny twist ending.
The poor writing also makes it impossible to get invested in the story. The only person in the film who may have any redeeming qualities receives at most ten minuets of screen time in a two hour movie. Every other character is overbearing in their misogyny, homophobia, or unrealistic “forward thinking” ideas. There is nothing wrong with writing a story that lacks pure good and evil but there should be at least one character the audience can relate to in some fashion.Lily Colson (Odessa Young) the movie’s narrator and main character is impacted most. She is supposed to be the voice of reason and theoretically the heroine. She basically has an affair with a married man (who has a young daughter), brags about how she has “talked s--t” about the whole school and her family, and comes across as contradictory and entitled. Lily has two long monologues that encapsulate the movie’s problems. Her statements make sense, she is just unable to back them up with actual logic. Her arguments may get Likes on Facebook, but when spoken out loud they sound silly.
Assassination Nation has a whole lot to say and decides the best way to spread the word is to say nothing at all. The film is a jumble of ideas that never gets any sort of point across. The direction is uninspired while the story has no sense of direction. There may be a decent movie trapped in Assassination Nation, but overall, it is unfleek.
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