|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 film written and directed by Sam Levinson. It stars an ensemble cast led by Odessa Young, Suki Waterhouse, Hari Nef and Abra. The film takes place in the fictional town of Salem, which devolves into chaos and violence after a computer hacker discovers and leaks personal secrets about many of its residents.
Development of the film began in October 2016, when it was announced as the independent label Foxtail Entertainment's first project. Casting announcements were made throughout 2017 and principal photography commenced in March 2017 and took place in New Orleans. Months later, Neon acquired the film rights with the Russo Brothers's AGBO.
The film had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 21, 2018, and was theatrically released in the United States on September 21, 2018, by Neon and AGBO in association with Refinery29. It has grossed $2.9 million worldwide and 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, sexism, swearing, torture, violence, gore, weapons, and fragile male egos.
In the town of Salem, Lily Colson is a high school senior who regularly hangs out with her three best friends, 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.
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 publicly commits suicide. 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, intending to set things right for all his students.
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 in Reagan's skull with a baseball bat during her cheerleading practice. "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 then disowned by her family. As she walks down her street, shunned, homeless, and miserable, she is harassed by a man in a truck who films and harasses her, before chasing her with a knife. She manages to incapacitate him with a shovel and make a hasty retreat to Em and Sarah's house.
A 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 executing Marty, they upload a video of his forced confession. The masked assailants track Lily to Em and Sarah's house, where all four girls are staying, break in, and kidnap Em and Sarah. Their mother, Nance, intervenes, trying to keep the marauders at bay, but she is shot and killed. Em and Sarah are put into the back of a police car. Bex successfully kills 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 reveals a knife in his hand, intending to execute her for exposing the town of their secrets, but not before revealing that her friends will share the same fate with her and Marty.
Lily fights Nick off and slits his throat with a makeshift weapon. Downstairs she discovers a large cache of weapons, which she uses to ambush and shoot the police officer holding Em and Sarah hostage and free her friends. Meanwhile, after escaping the Lacey residence, Bex attempts to look for help only to be ignored by the residents of the town. She is kidnapped by Diamond's friend Johnny, who tries to force Diamond to publicly hang her in retribution for Diamond's humiliation, but Bex successfully convinces him to spare her, buying enough time for Lily, Em, and Sarah to arrive, rescuing Bex and executing her assailants. Johnny surrenders and Diamond joins the girls soon after. Lily makes a video exonerating herself and urging everyone in Salem to stand up and fight back against their tormentors, and a great battle commences.
Meanwhile, Lily's younger brother Donny is arrested for the hacks, facing a life sentence for cyberterrorism, murder, and invasion of privacy. When asked why he did it by his parents, Donny shrugs and says that it was "for the LOLs." The next morning, the Salem High marching band performs Miley Cyrus' "We Can't Stop" down a street littered with dead bodies and destroyed vehicles.
- 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 Kolker
- 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
- Caden Swain as Donny
In October 2016, Matthew Malek and Anita Gou launched the independent label Foxtail Entertainment. The duo announced the film as their first project. David S. Goyer and Kevin Turen joined them to produce the film. It is also produced by Bron Studios and Phantom Four, in association with Creative Wealth Media.
After the premiere at Sundance Film Festival, Neon acquired the film rights. AGBO signed a deal with 30West, a company who acquired a majority stake in Neon, to co-distribute the film with Neon. In July 2018, Refinery29 also signed with Neon to co-distribute the film with them and AGBO.
In March 2017, Bella Thorne, Maude Apatow, Bill Skarsgård, Joel McHale, Colman Domingo and Noah Galvin joined the cast. In April 2017, Anika Noni Rose joined the cast for the role of Nance, an attractive woman with terrible taste in men, who has an unfortunate reputation in the conservative town of Salem.
In the United States, 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. Internationally, the film was released in only five countries as a limited theatrical release.
Neon's chief Tom Quinn acknowledged the film's unsatisfactory box office performance, saying "Sam Levinson has created a bold, visionary and ultimately cathartic response to the dumpster fire that is 2018. We're admittedly disappointed more people didn't come out this weekend, but those that did were loud and overwhelmingly positive. It's going to take more time for Assassination Nation to find its audience". Prior to the film release, analyst Jeff Bock compared the film to Heathers, saying "There's people out there who like these Heathers-type of films, but they tend to be more popular on home entertainment platforms" and "They're more likely to be cult favorites than big box office hits".
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".
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Recipient(s)||Result||Ref(s)|
|Toronto International Film Festival||September 16, 2018||People's Choice Award: Midnight Madness, Second Runner Up||Assassination Nation||Won|||
|Sitges Film Festival||October 14, 2018||Best Picture||Nominated|
|Utopiales Film Festival||November 5, 2018||Prix Utopia||Won|||
|Film Threat - Award This!||February 25, 2019||Indie Cinematographer||Marcell Rév||Won|||
|Biggest Oscar Snub||Nominated|
|Best Director||Sam Levinson||Nominated|
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