Ben Levinson’s Assassination Nation is the Salem Witch Trials by way of social media in the 21st century. Set in the fictional suburban enclave of Salem, four teenage girls are caught in the middle of a cultural firestorm when a mysterious hacker begins unveiling everyone’s private photos, videos, and perverted text messages. Thus, the unraveling begins. Mayor Bartlett, Principal Turrell, the bitter husband next door…no one is spared, least of all four young ladies whose only crime was online nudity. Combining neon colors, a throbbing pop-synth score, and a litany of cool topics of the day, Levinson is going for the zeitgeist jugular, melding together post-modern filmmaking techniques and current social issues to craft a searing portrait of modern Americana gone horribly wrong. Right or wrong, it’s provocative in all the right ways, pointing fingers, probing controversy, prodding the audience into responding with delight or disgust. It’s a film made for polarization in a deeply polarized moment, not only in the Divided States of America, but the world at large.
Right or wrong, it’s trigger-happy in a singular way, addressing so many problems as to become a problem itself as it mixes and mashes particular messages to arguably irresponsible effect. It’s 2018 and we’re living in the greatest yet most confusing and incoherent time in the history of mankind. We’re inundated with news, entertainment, and new information on an hourly basis. Forget the twenty-four hour news cycle, this is the sixty-minute news cycle, and it’s changing our minds and our lives one media shitstorm at a time. It’s only apt that a film about our moment feel like our moment, and Levinson is self-aware to the point of self-commentary. Besides, when a climactic shootout involves angry women armed to the teeth versus roided killer jocks cowering behind a flag-waving pick-up, I think the message is clear. Much like Mother! of last year, some messages require more screaming at the top of our lungs. Irresponsible, immature, indignant, irritating…critics have basically called it a “bitch.” Assassination Nation spits back “I’m not a bitch, I’m a feminist.”