Blu-ray Review: Assassination Nation

STUDIO: Universal | DIRECTOR: Sam Levinson | CAST: Odessa Young, Abra, Suki Waterhouse, Joel McHale, Hari Nef, Maude Apatow
RELEASE DATE: Dec. 18, 2018 | PRICE: DVD $14.99, Blu-ray $17.96
BONUSES: deleted/extended scenes, gag reel
SPECS: R | 108 min. | Comedy | 2.35:1 widescreen | DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

In-your-face attitude, alarming violence and kinetic action punctuate Assassination Nation, a visit to a high school from hell that gets more overheated the further it goes on. Directed by Sam Levinson, son of Barry Levinson (Rain Man, Good Morning, Vietnam), Assassination Nation couldn’t be more different than the senior Levinson’s less aggressive work.

The film is set in a town called Salem (but possibly not Massachusetts), where high school senior Lily (Odessa Young, Looking for Grace) hangs out with besties Sara (Suki Waterhouse, The Billionaire Boys Club), Em (Abra) and the transgendered Bax (Hari Nef, Transparent). Like their entire school—and their entire generation—the girls live and die by and on their cellphones, with all the texting, Snapchatting and Instagramming that implies. When the secret files of the Salem mayor and school principal are hacked and placed on social media for all to see, the entire town goes ballistic and the town’s constituents turn increasingly violent.  After the hack is traced to Lily’s house, the four teen gals find themselves in the middle of the turmoil, soon becoming targets for fellow students, the police and their neighbors.

Assassination Nation is not a pleasant film to watch as disturbing things happen to good people and bad people alike. But it is something to behold thanks to Levinson’s electrifying no-holds-barred direction and the echoes of such recent incendiary events as the Charlotteville riot and the Parkland shootings.  The film’s approach takes you into the middle of the maelstrom and makes you uneasy, suggesting this could be a documentary filmed last week in Trump’s America.

Thankfully, the ultra-serious stuff is leavened with dollops of the dark humor reminding us that this is, in fact, a satire. And in this regard, Assassination Nation recalls such films as Heathers, Clueless, the exploitation classic The Class of 1984 and The Purge series yet remains its own original conception. The wow factor is maintained right from the get-go following a flash-forward introduction that informs audiences that they are about to be confronted with “drug use, sexual content, toxic masculinity, homophobia, transphobia, guns, nationalism, racism, kidnapping, the male gaze, sexism, swearing, torture, violence, gore, weapons and fragile male egos.”

An entry in 2018’s Sundance Film Festival, Assassination Nation was a washout at the box-office, taking in a disappointing $2.8 million this past fall. It’s a tough movie to market and it’s not surprising its target audience—Snapchatting millennials—had little interest. Cult status is a possibility, but regardless, years from now, Assassination Nation will likely stand as the most troubling and accurate time capsule of life during domestic wartime, circa 2018.

Buy or Rent Assassination Nation

About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.