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Friday, September 21, 2018

Assassination Nation - Movie Review

The Movie: Assassination Nation

The Director: Sam Levinson

The Cast: Odessa Young, Hari Nef, Suki Waterhouse, Abra, Colman Domingo, Bill Skarsgård, Joel McHale, Anika Noni Rose, Bella Thorne, Maude Apatow, Cody Christian, Danny Ramirez

The Story: After a malicious data hack exposes the secrets of the perpetually American town of Salem, chaos decends and four girls must fight to survive, while coping with the hack themselves.

The Review:
IMDB lists this movie under the categories Action, Comedy, and Crime. I guess that kind of works if you want to try and fit this movie into standardized boxes but really this movie is all of those, none of those, and a thousand more things that are redefining what a movie is capable of being. Some of the first movies I thought of while watching this film are Revenge, Natural Born Killers, Kill Bill, Spring Breakers, and Thoroughbreds. The story is about as timely as can be as it peels back the layers of absurdity associated with how people react and overreact to just about anything they see on the internet and how people's lives are torn to shreds in seconds without more than a moment's thought or consideration from the mob mentality filled masses.

One of the most interesting and shocking examples of this is how a well respected high school principle has his life pulled out from under him by a hacker who throws the man's photos, files, and internet history on to the internet right as he is helping authorities in the investigation of who might have been responsible for doing the same thing to the town's mayor. Both men are immediately vilified and discarded by an overly and instantly judgmental population who rifle through each of their most personal and intimate moments and label them as criminal without the benefit of context or common sense. As the hacker moves on to more and more targets, the once righteous begin to fall and the town goes into an hysterical frenzy trying to salvage a false sense of normalcy and security and blind patriotism while trying to protect their own secrets from being exposed.

Yeah, that's basically how the movie starts and then it gets even more wild and crazy from there. The focus of the movie is actually on the four young women you see in the poster and how culture, counter culture, social media, and the aforementioned hacker lead them down a path from being slightly less than innocent high schoolers all the way to gun toting bad ass killers. It's interesting to see their transformation which is subtle at first and then kicks into high gear in the third act mainly as a matter of survival and the fact that they are just fed up with being labeled, oppressed, and marginalized. So many timely topics are explored, woven together, and deconstructed that I would love to watch the movie again to find all the things I missed and to let everything sink in a little more because it's all just so disturbingly relevant.

Setting aside the story for a moment, this movie looks and sounds absolutely fantastic. The colors are bold, the fashions are authentically youthful, and the soundtrack is spot on current. The cinematography is boldly frenetic and puts you right in the middle of the character's lives as they interact with each other and their environments. There is a key sequence during the third act where cameras follow various characters in, out, around, and through a house in a way that escalates the levels of tension and leads to one of the more shocking action sequences of the movie. Everything about this movie is just so well thought out and...oh wait...

What the hell, I'm four paragraphs in and I haven't even mentioned the cast yet!

The four primary characters were brought to life by Odessa Young, Hari Nef, Suki Waterhouse, and Abra and that right there has to be the coolest collection of names ever. Odessa Young plays Lily who is the film's protagonist and she is just a joy to watch on screen. Yes, the camera loves her, but her performance is also pretty freaking brilliant given everything her character goes through. Hari Nef is a transgender woman who plays a transgender character which was really cool to see since Hollywood would usually have just given the role to Tom Cruise or Tilda Swinton because that's what Hollywood does. Suki Waterhouse and Abra basically play the other two friends and they don't have a lot to do other than be the other two friends but what they get to do in those roles is still super cool and they look super cool doing it.

Getting back to the story for a moment, I will say that it may not be for everyone although it really should be. The topics are presented in a very extreme manner but really that's just to get your attention and then, once you're in, you are faced with actually having to think about what you are watching. Yes, this movie is a thought provoking and provocative bit of film making but, that being said, you could also go into shut your brain down mode and just watch the movie because of how cool and fun and exciting it is and you'd be just fine.

The Verdict:
Assassination Nation is a beautifully shot bad ass movie that takes no prisoners when it comes to attacking social media, internet culture, and the widening gap between adults and the kids they are raising. The imagery is stunningly graphic, the story is shockingly stylized, and the characters are brutally authentic and all of it is meant to make you reconsider who we are, how we have been programmed to think, and where we are headed as a culture and society. Go watch this movie right now.

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