Simple Review- Hit and miss
There are times of the movie-going year in which you have a weekend that doesn’t offer much in the way of exciting choices. This weekend was such a weekend. When making my decision on which new film to watch, I watched the trailers for each one and, naturally, the one with the most gore caught my limited attention. So, I grabbed my Movie Pass and went to see ” Assassination Nation” and was almost pleasantly surprised. Almost. Did ” Assassination Nation” hit the mark or miss its target? Put on your bulletproof vest and let’s take a shot at this one.
“Assassination Nation” ( I just like saying that. It’s fun, give it a try) tells the tale of a small suburban city named Salem, which should tell you this is not a subtle movie, that begins to tear itself apart when a hacker reveals everyone’s online secrets. After watching the trailer, I thought this was going to be a fun “Purge” meets ” Mean Girls” flick with some over the top violence and gore. While there is that part of the movie, I was surprised by the set up the first 2/3 of the film delivers. Writer and director Sam Levinson, does a nice job handling our imagined privacy that can be exposed in a heartbeat to the world, and the consequences that come with it. Yes, it is heavy-handed in its approach, but I didn’t expect much subtlety from a movie with a narrator telling you the violence and mayhem will be disturbing. To my surprise, when the violence and chaos of the third act arrives, I was disappointed with the change in tone the filmmakers take. First things first, however, let’s look at the good things ” Assassination Nation” ( admit it you like saying that title too!) has delivered to us.
The best thing this film does, as I stated earlier, is to puncture our privacy balloon about our cell phones and laptops. The anonymous hacker starts with a local politician, exposing his secret double life, and destroying his whole existence, while the internet trolls and faceless town folk either join the attack or meet this news with apathy. The apathy is the part I found most interesting. The movie shows how social media is geared toward narcissism and as long as whatever is happening is affecting someone else, why should we care one way or the other. Those that do care, only care about the sordid details and not the human being that is being torn apart by their secrets coming to light. I found one character to be the most sympathetic when his life is destroyed. He tries to act with dignity in a situation where his accusers only want blood, and refuse to hear his side of the story. For a movie that promised horror movie type mayhem, it hit on a number of current social topics and the ugliness that people meet a changing world with.
The cast is very good, with Odessa Young, as Lily, standing out among them. I did not recognize any of her three friends, that form their own “mean girls” type clique, but they all did a nice job as foul-mouthed high school seniors. Bill Skarsgärd (you know, Pennywise from It) has a small part as Lily’s boyfriend, and I enjoyed his performance as he deals with his frustrations with Lily, while trying to control his building anger. Sam Levinson does some nice work with the camera throughout the movie, using tracking shots in clever ways, as well as employing split-screen early on in a party scene that gave our four main characters some nice development. Overall, I was enjoying the first 2/3 of the film, even with the heavy handiness, but then the third act pulled out its rifle and assassinated what this film could have been. ( See what I did there? Yes, I am that clever)
The tone shift in the third act is so abrupt that is hurts the enjoyable build up. We go from a few people being outed on the internet and jump a week in time to the whole town ready to kill each other. The police chief investigating the hacker disappears from the movie with only a throwaway line to say what happened to him. Other characters disappear as well, while others completely act in a different way than the last time we saw them on screen. It is jarring and pulls you right out of the action as you sit and ask yourself ” Where is so and so?” or ” why are these people doing this all of the sudden?” It felt like as Levinson was writing the movie he had this “purge” type ending he was in love with and couldn’t wait to get to it, so he just jumped ahead to itch that gore scratch he was feeling. As an audience, we were enjoying the foreplay and he jumped right to the rough stuff, leaving us sad and messy.
The other big negative for me was that none of the characters in this movie are good people. Well, there is one exception I spoke of earlier, but he is barely in the film. I get the filmmakers’ point was to show that we all have our dirty little secrets, but our four main “heroes” are just painfully awful people. They are mean and selfish, and I felt no sympathy for any of their characters. When the town folk turns on them, I had no reason to root for them to escape, other than these are the four characters we have been following around the whole movie. By the end, they have not grown or learned any lesson, in fact, Lily post a speech online stating that she is accepting she is a crappy person. Heroic of her. This all leads to more in your face social commentary. It seems like movies can’t let the audience use their own intelligence to figure things out, they just bash us in the face with it.
My other criticism is more to do with ” Hollywood-isms” that really need to go away. Someone tell filmmakers that nail guns do not do what they are shown to do in these types of movies. And for the love of all that is holy, enough with the ” creepy” Halloween mask-wearing gangs. Do all these people show up at the Halloween store on the same day looking for the creepiest mask? Does the store manager know in advance and properly staff for that day, or does he/she have to call in Carol on her day off? If so that is not cool angry mob! Does the store jack up the prices on said masks? This is the stuff I think of in the theater, weird I know! One last one, people who have not been shown using guns through the whole movie don’t just pick one up and become Sgt. York instantly! Just trying to help you out Hollywood.
To end this rambling mess, ” Assassination Nation” had some good thing working in its favor, but the third act just ruined any good will it had built up. I wish it would have picked a direction and stayed with it, instead of trying to jam two separate types of movies together in such a jarring way. You might want to wait to watch this one at home, and not spend your hard earned money on a movie ticket. Hopefully in the coming weeks, Hollywood will bring us some better options to enjoy at our local movie theater. Until then, please like, comment and follow my delightful blog, so I have a good excuse for watching these flicks!
As Always, thanks for your time!
The Movie Psycho