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Review: Assassination Nation (Sundance)

Assassination Nation (Sundance)
7 10

PLOT: The citizens of a small town collectively lose their minds after a hacker leaks all their cell-phone data online. Desperate, fourteen girls become the target of the enraged town due to flimsy evidence linking them to the crime.

REVIEW: ASSASSINATION NATION is a film seemingly made for the #metoo movement. A timely tale of teen girls taking on a town-full of misogynists, it seems primed to spark lots of conversation. It’s no wonder Neon snapped up the rights for $10 million, the biggest deal of the fest.

It certainly hits all the requisite genre beats, with many saying it’s like HEATHERS meets THE PURGE, a good comparison. It hits on a lot of things, with outrage culture being what sparks the town’s mania. It all kicks off with this small-town mayor’s iPhone data being leaked, outing the married conservative as a homosexual. The town is so vehement in calling for his blood, he commits suicide. It gets worse when the kind high school principal (Colman Domingo) has innocent photos of his daughter leaked, with the town, insanely, calling him a pedophile, with more and more lives getting ruined the more records are leaked.

This story is juxtaposed to the quartet of girls who become our heroines. All four are perfectly nice, with the only thing controversial about them being that they’re proud of their sexuality, with Odessa Young, as our lead, wearing short-short skirts that get her in trouble - although it’s soon revealed she’s carrying on an affair with Joel McHale’s married man next-door, a fact that puts her and the gang into jeopardy.

It all comes to a head when most of the town goes crazy, and start donning masks and carrying around machine guns, looking for someone to blame. Young, and her three friends, played by Abra, Suki Waterhouse, and transgender model Hari Nef (in a breakout performance) wind up in their cross-hairs, cue them being hunted through town and forced to defend themselves- something they prove to be pretty good at.

The sophomore effort from director Sam Levinson (whose previous film, ANOTHER HAPPY DAY, was starkly different), ASSASSINATION NATION will probably be taken a lot more seriously than it was ever intended to be, with it clearly being satire, albeit very well-timed. It’s clever and well-shot, although it takes a while for it to settle-in, with Levinson’s constant quick-cuts making the first half hour exhausting. It gets better when Levinson allows the actual premise to start, but from then on it’s a roller-coaster ride.

The acting is good all-around, with Young a likable heroine and Nef stealing all of her scenes. McHale also makes for a convincing antagonist, with him playing the kind of dark side of Jeff Winger, being one of those smart-ass know-it-all’s who - in the end - know nothing and react apocalyptically. I’m sure plenty of readers will have tuned out by this point in the review, deciding ASSASSINATION NATION isn’t for them, and that’s fine. It’ll have that effect. However, keep your tongue-firmly-in-cheek and you’ll have fun with this smart pick-up, which could be a future sleeper hit (or go straight to VOD without making a peep - we’ll see).

Source: JoBlo.com

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