Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Sam Levinson|
|Written by||Sam Levinson|
|Music by||Ian Hultquist|
|Edited by||Ron Patane|
|Box office||$2.9 million|
Assassination Nation is a 2018 American black comedy thriller teensploitation film written and directed by Sam Levinson. It stars Odessa Young, Suki Waterhouse, Hari Nef, Abra, Anika Noni Rose, Colman Domingo, Maude Apatow, Bill Skarsgård, Joel McHale and Bella Thorne. In the film, the city of Salem, a fictional town, devolves into chaos and violence after a computer hacker discovers and leaks personal secrets about many of its residents.
Assassination Nation had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 21, 2018, and was released in the United States on September 21, 2018, followed by a release in the United Kingdom on November 23, 2018, by Neon, AGBO and Refinery29. It received mixed reviews from critics, who praised its "frenetic and visually stylish" action but criticized the thinly-written characters.
The film opens with a montage of trigger warnings that show brief scenes depicting topics including bullying, blood, abuse, classism, death, drinking, drug use, sexual content, toxic masculinity, homophobia, transphobia, guns, nationalism, racism, kidnapping, murder, attempted murder, the male gaze, giant frogs, sexism, swearing, torture, violence, gore, weapons, and fragile male egos.
In a town called Salem, Lily Colson is a high school senior who regularly hangs out with her three best friends, including Bex Warren and sisters Em and Sarah Lacey. The girls go to a party where Bex hooks up with her crush Diamond, while Lily hangs with her boyfriend Mark while simultaneously texting someone named "Daddy" behind his back. After sex, Diamond tells Bex to keep their hookup a secret, as Bex is transgender.
During the party, Marty, a casual hacker, receives a message from an unknown hacker about Mayor Bartlett, a known anti-gay candidate. He reveals pictures of Bartlett engaging with male escorts and dressing up in women's clothing, which Marty forwards to the entire town. During the press conference in which he's supposed to address the facts, Bartlett instead kills himself with a revolver in front of the crowd. Principal Turrell, Lily's kindhearted and heart-warming school principal, is the next to be hacked, with pictures of his 6-year-old daughter in the bath making people view him as a pedophile. During the meeting with angry parents, he refuses to resign because he knows he will set things right for all his students in his school, even when their secrets are gravely at stake.
As the police question Marty about the hacks, a massive data dump of half the people in Salem is posted. Lily's classmate Grace discovers that her best friend Reagan has sent nude pictures of her to her boyfriends, and bashes Reagan's brains in with a baseball bat during cheerleading practice, causing the other cheerleaders to run away. "Daddy" is revealed to be Em and Sarah's neighbor Nick Mathers, who Lily used to babysit for. Lily's lewd pictures and videos that she sent to Nick are made public when his information is leaked. As a result, she is exposed and humiliated by Mark and disowned from her family. As she walks down her street, shunned, homeless, and miserable, she is harassed by a man in a truck who films her and then chases her with a knife. She manages to stun him with a shovel and make a hasty retreat to Em and Sarah's house.
One week later, most of the town have donned masks and taken up arms to get revenge on those they think have wronged them. A masked Nick and other men capture Marty, who they torture into admitting that the source of the hacks came from Lily's IP address. Before stabbing Marty to death, they upload a video of his forced confession. They track down Lily at Em and Sarah's house, where she is currently hiding. The masked assailants break in and kidnap Em and Sarah. Their mother, Nance, intervenes, trying to keep the marauders at bay, but fails as she is shot and killed by one of them. Em and Sarah are captured and put into the back of a police car. Bex, who was also there, successfully takes out one of the attackers with a nail gun and escapes, while Lily hides in Nick's house. Nick at first pretends to help her but then pulls out a knife, intending to rape her. Lily is able to fight Nick off, and she slits his throat with a makeshift weapon. Downstairs she discovers a large cache of weapons including firearms and two katanas, taking as many as she can to her own advantage; Lily ambushes and shoots a police officer holding Em and Sarah hostage to death and frees her friends. Meanwhile, after escaping the Lacey residence, Bex attempts to look for help only to be ignored by the residents of the home and to be also kidnapped by Johnny. She is about to be publicly hanged in retribution for Diamond's humiliation over having sex with her, and Diamond's friend Johnny tries to force Diamond to perform the hanging, but Bex is able to make him vouch for her. Johnny threateningly has no choice but to take matters into his own hands until Lily, Em, and Sarah show up just in time to rescue Bex and execute her assailants. With no other options left, Johnny finally surrenders, and Diamond eventually joins the girls soon after; Lily soon makes a video calling out other women and men in the town to stand up and fight back against their tormentors in an effort to clear her name, commencing a great war for order in Salem.
After the final battle, the film cuts to Donny, Lily's younger brother, revealed as the criminal mastermind behind the hacks, now facing a life sentence behind bars for cyberterrorism, murder, and invasion of privacy. When asked why he did it by his parents, Donny shrugs and says, "I don't know, for the lulz?"
- Odessa Young as Lily Colson
- Suki Waterhouse as Sarah Lacey
- Hari Nef as Bex Warren
- Abra as Em Lacey
- Bella Thorne as Reagan Hall
- Bill Skarsgård as Mark
- Joel McHale as Nick Mathers
- Maude Apatow as Grace
- Colman Domingo as Principal Turrell
- Anika Noni Rose as Nancey Lacey
- Kelvin Harrison Jr. as Mason
- Lukas Gage as Eric Lafont
- Cody Christian as Johnny
- Danny Ramirez as Diamond
- Noah Galvin as Marty
- Jennifer Morrison as Margie Duncan
- J. D. Evermore as Chief Patterson
- Cullen Moss as Mayor Bartlett
- Susan Misner as Rose Mathers
- Joe Chrest as Lawrence
- Kathryn Erbe as Rebecca Colson
- Jeff Pope as Officer Richter
- Andrene Ward-Hammond as Officer Daniels
On October 2016, Matthew Malek and Anita Gou launched the independent label Foxtail Entertainment. The duo announced the movie as their first project. David S. Goyer and Kevin Turen joined them to produce the movie.
In the United States and Canada, Assassination Nation was released alongside The House with a Clock in Its Walls, Life Itself and Fahrenheit 11/9, and did poorly in theaters. The film was projected to gross around $4 million in its opening weekend from 1,403 theaters. However it ended up debuting to just $1 million, finishing 15th at the box office.
On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 73% based on 129 reviews, with a weighted average of 6.63/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Assassination Nation juggles exploitation and socially aware elements with mixed results, but genre fans may find it too stylish and viscerally energetic to ignore." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 56 out of 100, based on 28 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences polled by PostTrak gave the film a 60% positive score and a 39% "definite recommend".
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