Review: Message lost in high style 'Assassination Nation'

This violent teenage fever dream presents a hateful apocalyptic vision of today's youth

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic
Abra, Odessa Young, Hari Nef and Suki Waterhouse in "Assassination Nation."

From privacy and fame to sex, hacking scandals and Instagram, "Assassination Nation" takes on a laundry list of hot topics and rolls its eyes at all of them. 

This puerile exercise in taboo smashing, which comes off like "The Doom Generation" by way of "The Purge," is enamored with its own attitude, and is like a teen taking 900 selfies to get the one that expresses just the right mixture of angst, indifference and sex appeal.   

Writer-director Sam Levinson may have a lot to say about the topics at hand and modern teenage life, but "Assassination Nation" is caked in so much hashtag snark that the message is lost and all that remains are the filters he sent everything through. 

Talk about a teenage wasteland. 

Odessa Young plays Lily, a high school student in the town of Salem, a basic Midwestern town where everyone's got something to hide. When the town's mayor is the subject of an embarrassing online hack, it sets off a rash of hackings where everyone's online secrets are aired, tearing apart people's lives in an instant. 

Lily in particular sees her salacious texting relationship with her older, married neighbor Nick (Joel McHale) made public, which is bad news for both of them. Lily is fingered as the culprit in the leak, which causes the town to turn on her as "Assassination Nation" goes from dark comedy to just plain dark in its violent final act. 

There is no shortage of style in Levinson's nightmare, apocalyptic vision of today's youth, but he shows no restraint and "Assassination Nation" quickly becomes exhausting as it grows more hateful. When the movie ends with a marching band performing Miley Cyrus' "We Can't Stop," it's unclear if it's meant to be enjoyed ironically, which ironically makes it a good summation of the movie.


'Assassination Nation'


Rated R for disturbing bloody violence, strong sexual material including menace, pervasive language, and for drug and alcohol use -- all involving teens

Running time: 110 minutes