Okay, so before I get started, yes, I am so far behind on my reviews for the past two weeks that Kim Kardashian can walk through my gaps of written reviews without her hips getting caught in the frame. Thanks to my constant playing of SHADOW OF THE TOMB RAIDER (which, as this review is being written, is also as of yet complete) I was already drastically behind as is, but then a vacation from Los Angeles to San Jose took me away from even seeing the released movies of that week. I actually still, as of this moment, have not seen either SISTERS BROTHERS or COLETTE, both of which I really want to see. I’ll do what I can to catch up, but this month is going to be jam-packed with my upcoming Halloween Special 2018 reviews, so this’ll be more than challenging.
Starring: Odessa Young (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of, and upcoming films CELESTE  and RICHARD SAYS GOODBYE ), Hari Nef (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of), Suki Waterhouse (THE BAD BATCH , ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS , and upcoming films KILLERS ANONYMOUS  and CHARLIE SAYS ), and Abra (acting debut; congrats, miss)
Support: Bill Skarsgård (DEADPOOL 2 , IT , ALLEGIANT , and upcoming films IT: CHAPTER TWO  and VILLAINS ), Joel McHale (THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS ), Anika Noni Rose (EVERYTHING EVERYTHING , THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG , and the upcoming RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET: WRECK-IT RALPH 2 ), and Bella Thorne (MIDNIGHT SUN , RATCHET & CLANK , ALVIN & THE CHIPMUNKS 4 , and the upcoming I STILL SEE YOU )
Director/Writer: Sam Levinson (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of)
Composer: Ian Hultquist (AXL )
Cinematographer: Marcell Rév (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of)
Editor: Ron Patane (THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS , and upcoming films METALHEAD  and TRIPLE FRONTIER )
This is my honest opinion of: ASSASSINATION NATION
A group of four teenage girls are engulfed in a city-wide pandemic of cyber hacks, originally starting with the Mayor, leading to random individuals with secrets that get exposed and before long, one of the teenage girls, Lily (Odessa Young), is framed for the hacks and the town eventually bands together to kill her for something she didn’t do and fights for survival.
From the moment this movie started, I already had it pegged. It was going to be a pretentious high schooler’s complaints about slut-shaming, freedom to do whatever she wants without judgment, rebel against the system, and just be an hour and a half worth of girl power. And for a good chunk of the movie, the story wasn’t proving me wrong. Lots of deep narration about what a great guy this guy was, lecturing a school principal about how her explicit drawing of a masturbating woman is somehow artsy and should be acceptable in high school, even though teenagers that do shit like this are always out for attention, it’s a load of bullshit. Surprisingly, there are some legit smart conversations about how the female body isn’t pornographic on the surface and conservative-minded suburban adults have a hard time believing anything outside of what is considered proper. It does this a lot. For every scene about whining about a relationship, there’s a well-written scene around the corner. Hell, I couldn’t even tell how much of the movie I was supposed to take seriously. The movie opens rather silly with everyone, including a kid on his toy tricycle wearing creepy Halloween-type masks and Lily narrating how literally everyone is out to kill her and her friends, while also showing a montage of what makes this movie rated R, including throwing in “fragile male egos” in the mix alongside “homophobia, transphobia, rape, and gore.” By the way, I’m pretty sure there was no rape or gore in this movie. Lots of bloody violence, sure, but I don’t recall any guts.
However, things started to really pick up when the entire town’s phones, computers, and shit get hacked and their dirty laundry is out for everyone to see and they all turn on each other. Over-the-top, sure, but at least the movie was starting to live up to the silly exploitative feel it wanted me to buy into, especially when it’s discovered that Lily was sexting Nick (Joel McHale), the father of a little girl that she used to babysit, who is still married to his wife. Like, it’s almost legit hard to watch as Lily is kicked out of her own home for her actions that are very public and is heckled by dudes recording her and threatening her to get in the car for nobody needs to know what.
Before long, the movie’s intentions become pretty damn clear. The town’s name is Salem. The entire town has banned together to “kill the bitches” who aren’t responsible for their problems. Ah ha! A modern take on the Salem Witch Trials. Suddenly, I was having a little more fun with the movie. For mostly good reasons too because now the girls are fighting back, killing everyone around them, it’s a bloody, action-fueled time. Perhaps I should have seen the parallels earlier, as it’s revealed in the opening that the town is called Salem, but I decided not to read into it too much at the time, so many smarter film-viewers likely saw this coming long before I caught on, but still. By the time the movie ended, I remember leaving rather happily.
But then time started to settle. Then I started to think to myself… would I actually watch this movie again? Sadly, the answer is no, and there’s some key reasons why. For one thing, the exploitation, revenge-thriller feel of the final ten to fifteen minutes, as fun of a payoff as it was, only barely saved the movie. In order to get to that payoff again, I would have to slog through the boring pretentious relationship drama, the uninteresting partying and drug scenes, and all of the pre-pubescent bullshit that was kind of making it hard to sit through in the first place. And really, none of them play a big part in the overall narrative, if at all. Fine, smart writing about how the female body shouldn’t be objectified. I’m all on board. But at the end of the day, the movie’s climax is about false blame on a young woman that everyone believes hacked their phones and spread it around. It’s… not as clever or as smart as the movie wants me to think it is. Okay, some compelling writing about a transgender not feeling sympathy about a political figure’s suicide, who spent his entire campaign fighting against the LGBTQ community, but none of this had anything to do with anything by the end of it.
Don’t get me wrong, there are good aspects of the movie. The acting is damn near superb. Leading lady Young is definitely a charismatic force, when she’s written well anyway, and definitely Hari Nef as Bex stole the show in a lot of the scenes that she was in. Quite honestly, the chemistry between the actors elevated the movie more than I wager most will admit. Maybe less-so than I’m making it out to be, but was enough for me. Also, the movie was shot well, the cinematography being a standout, the action was easy to follow, and later scenes were pretty tense and quite enjoyable. So make no mistake, I don’t think this movie is anywhere near a dumpster fire.
With all that said, I can’t call this a good movie, per se. It just has way too many problems on a narrative standpoint and far too many of its own ideas go nowhere, or don’t go anywhere surprising. Acting, some good writing, and direction keep it from being bad, but the prospect of a repeat viewing is pretty unsettling. I respect this movie for standing up for women and their bodies being objectified, and essentially being a rallying cry for all women to not put up with what a man or the non-progressive thinkers will say what is right or wrong, but there was a smarter way to go about this already near-brilliant idea. As a recommendation, I say viewer beware. This movie is a slow burn, and despite a fun payoff, heightened enjoyment may be pretty checkered. I say save this for a rental.
My honest rating for ASSASSINATION NATION: a weak 3/5
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