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"Assassination Nation" (2018) | Sam Gall Movie Review Issue #3 Gem Mint 10.0

Updated: Jan 11, 2022

"Assassination Nation" (2018)

Director: Sam Levinson

Writer: Sam Levinson

Starring: Odessa Young, Abra, Suki Waterhouse, Hari Nef, Colman Domingo, Danny Ramirez, Joel McHale, Maude Apatow, Cody Christian, Bill Skarsgard, Cullen Moss, Bella Thorne, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Anika Noni Ross, Jeff Pope, Noah Galvin, Stacie Davis

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

Runtime: 1h 48m

Genre: Action | Comedy | Crime | Drama | Horror | Thriller

Country: United States | Canada

Language: English | Italian

Available on: Various VOD platforms

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

You might like this if you like: HBO's "Euphoria" (2019-), "The Purge" film series (2013-), "Heathers" (1989), "Jennifer's Body" (2009), "Mr. Robot" (2015-2019) fans of writer/director Sam Levinson, fans of Odessa Young, fans of Maude Apatow, fans of Bill Skarsgard, badass chick-flicks, girls-with-guns, female action movies

Odessa Young "Assassination Nation" (2018)

What if “Heathers” (1989) directed by Michael Lehmann got together with “The Purge” (2013) directed by James DeMonaco and had a secret love child? That’s the question The New York Times posed to describe this film and I couldn’t agree more.

The film premiered at the midnight section of the Sundance Film Festival and caught the attention of Joe & Anthony Russo (“Avengers: Infinity War & Endgame” (2018-2019), “Arrested Development” (2003-2005), “Community” (2009-2014)) whose company AGBO and NEON partnered together to purchase the world-wide rights.

Joe Russo (left), Bill Skarsgard (middle left), Hari Nef (middle), Suki Waterhouse (middle right), Sam Levinson (right) at Comic-Con for "Assassination Nation (2018)

“My brother and I grew up in the independent scene. Now that we have gone on this journey that we have gone on, and using the leverage that we have coming off of our work with Marvel, we started our own studio,” said Joe Russo. “We owe a karmic debt to the universe to foster and support amazing voices working in film. This is like a whole new generation of filmmaking.

Hari Nef (left), Bill Skarsgard (bottom middle), Sam Levinson (top middle), Colman Domingo (right) for an "Assassination Nation" (2018) photoshoot with The Wrap

I went into this film being a fan of HBO’s "Euphoria" also created/directed/written by Sam Levinson. Sam Levinson is also the son of renowned filmmaker and actor Barry Levinson (“Diner” (1972), “Rain Man” (1988) and “Good Morning, Vietnam” (1987)). You get the style, the flavor, the rawness and the ferocity of HBO's “Euphoria” in this film but with an action/horror genre layered on top. It’s a delicious treat for those wanting more after Euphoria finished. It’s true, I got them backwards. If I had seen “Assassination Nation” (2018) first I would’ve been drooling for more and eventually discovered "Euphoria". Or had been waiting until it premiered on HBO.

HBO's "Euphoria" (2019-) starring Zendaya, created by Sam Levinson

I know I am late to watching this film but I don’t know anyone else who’s seen this or heard of it. It’s certainly not for the faint of heart and it literally gives you trigger warnings before the film just like HBO’s “Euphoria”. Drugs, sex, violence all involving teens. It’s real. It’s raw. I think it’s a film that helps to understanding the misunderstood. Bridging that foggy gap between generations, ageism, racism, bullying.

"Assassination Nation" (2018)

It’s a hardcore high school movie for young horror fans but at the same time I think watching HBO’s “Euphoria” and “Assassination Nation” (2018) has the potential to help people outside of this generation to understand this ones maybe just a little bit better. And I’m not saying I knew or ever knew or that anyone’s supposed to know, but I was certainly educated and shocked when introduced to Sam Levinson’s work and felt like I was maybe a small step closing to understanding the world we live in today.

"Assassination Nation" (2018)

Just to know that some people (like Sam Levinson) have actually lived and experienced some of the hardships you’ll find in his storytelling is the reality check I needed. There are hard parts to watch in both the film and HBO’s “Euphoria” but it’s something I feel that needs to be talked about or seen. I feel that way about a lot of stories but I’d never seen pain or rawness, or even honestly told so well and real than I have in Sam Levinson’s work. Lena Dunham’s rawness, bravery and confidence in HBO’s “Girls” comes close for me and I love her and that show for those very reasons but Sam Levinson has taken it to a whole new level.

"Assassination Nation" (2018)

The cinematography is some of the best I’ve ever seen. It’s a music video style he incorporates which I’ve never been truly huge on (music videos) but uses it to elevate the story in ways I haven’t seen. It’s fitting for the stories he tells and the way he choreographs the music over and under it is brilliant. Sam Levinson opened my mind to some newer hip-hop. I was a strictly old school, 80s-90s, golden era hip-hop fan who rejected Lil Wayne, Drake, or basically anyone after the early 2000’s. Somehow listening to some of the newer songs and hearing them how Sam Levinson hears them/envisions them made me appreciate them a bit more. Or at least able to appreciate how Sam Levinson uses them. You get a fine mix from old school, but mostly new hip hop, to classical music, house and electronic to even Ennio Morricone’s (RIP) sound of the west.

Odessa Young (left), Suki Waterhouse (middle left), Abra (middle right), Hari Nef (right) in "Assassination Nation" (2018)

The cast is tremendous in this film. A lot of new faces for me but I will watch anything Maude Apatow is in. If you know me by now you I am the Apatow family/crew’s biggest fan. I am so happy to see how far Maude has come as an actor from “Knocked Up” (2007) to now also being in HBO’s “Euphoria” and is starting to direct and write her own work. She, as always for me, killed it in this. And to be honest, I didn’t even know she was in it until I was watching. It was the cherry on top I didn’t know I needed. Abra, Suki Waterhouse, Hari Nef were all new faces to me but were outstanding. I’m surprised I haven’t seen them pop up more since the film’s release. Bill Skarsgard, whose film “Simple Simon” (2010) I reviewed (will post my old ones on the site soon) and loved, has a nice little role in this too.

Odessa Young in "Assassination Nation" (2018)

For me, the true gem and heart of the movie was Odessa Young. Also a new face for me. Her performance stuck out to me more than anything else in the picture. For someone that new for me to have that big of an impact… It was an amazing journey of emotions and physicality she goes through in this film. I was impressed and touched by her raw and beautiful performance. I know Sam Levinson’s gotta be credited too for what ended up on that screen and for creating the character in the first place and finding those emotions with her as a director.

Hari Nef in "Assassination Nation" (2018)

Sam Levinson’s style echoes a Wong Kar-Wai or Xavier Dolan (who is basically jus