Starring: Odessa Young, Suki Waterhouse, Hari Nef, Abra, Joel McHale, Bella Thorne, Bill Skarsgård
Director: Sam Levinson
Running Time: 110 Minutes
Rating: R for Very Bloody Violence, Scandalously Lascivious Behavior, and Casual Drug Use and Profanity
Release Date: September 21, 2018
Assassination Nation paints the picture of what might happen if online rage riots coalesced beyond the screens. A hacker who goes by “Er0str4tus” dumps the personal files of the Salem, Massachusetts mayor, exposing him for the hypocrisy of running as a family values, anti-LGBTQ candidate while he gets up to lascivious behavior with other men. The moral calculus is a lot harder to square when the next data dump victim is the local high school principal, who gets labelled an abuser for having nude photos of his young daughter in the bath. He (justifiably) insists that he has done nothing wrong and refuses to resign, further inciting the mob that the entire town is becoming.
We see the consequences of the hacking play out through the lens of the high school, particularly four tight-knit friends: Lily (Odessa Young), Sarah (Suki Waterhouse), Bex (Hari Nef), and Em (Abra). They all demonstrate their bona fides when it comes to having a social conscience, Lily especially so. She is wise beyond her years, but angry in a way that belies her youth. She has insightful thoughts about feminism, the male gaze, and just generally treating people with respect. Whenever someone is the target of rage, she considers them fairly and compassionately, recognizing that everyone is a person and contains multitudes. But she is far from perfect, as she is carrying on a rather sleazy emotional affair with her neighbor Nick (Joel McHale), the father of a girl she used to babysit.
When Lily’s secrets are exposed and evidence suggests that she might be behind the hack, she and her friends become the target of the town’s unhinged id, as a full-fledged vengeance-seeking posse takes bloody devastating form. Plenty of women have been threatened with rape and murder for the mistakes that Lily has made (or even milder sins), and the climax of Assassination Nation illustrates how terrifying it would be if a mob of people made good on those promises. While she has transgressed, it is nothing to be killed over, and her attackers correspondingly look insane and inhuman. Ultimately, Lily and her friends are able to fight back in some stylish red leather outfits. It might strain a little credulity that they are suddenly so capable in guerrilla combat, but this film is more feverish than believable, and besides, they have the power of righteousness on their side.
Assassination Nation is Recommended If You Like: The Purge, ’80s John Carpenter, American Horror Story: Cult, South Park Season 20
Grade: 4 out of 5 Red Leather Jackets