Hot Buttons and Trigger-Fingers Blast Salem
DIRECTED BY SAM LEVINSON/2018
Writer/director Sam Levinson brings us a tale of a Twitter battle brought to life in Assassination Nation. The gritty, fevered romp centers around a close-knit group of girlfriends in modern-day Salem. The story itself loosely mirrors the events of the Salem witch trials of the early 1690’s but, you know, with, like a lot more selfies.
It all starts when an anonymous hacker leaks the private chats, emails and photos of a local government official. There’s a lot of lively discourse among the principle characters about the leaks up until they start to directly affect them and all hell breaks loose. The leaks meander down the food chain at the start, reaching a break-neck pace just before the entire town of Salem loses its collective mind. Before the chaos, there’s time to dive briefly into the subjects of transphobia, racism, nudity, inequality and rape culture, but because the film isn’t able to say anything necessarily new about these hot button issues, it feels more like grasping for relevance than genuine interest.
Lily, brought to poignant life by Odessa Young, has a few biting monologues about sexuality, gender and hypocrisy but the ultimate villain of the movie is the fragile male ego. Lily and her friends are hunted by mobs of men shouting, “We will not be humiliated!” near the films climax which might feel a little on the nose for some, but its ubiquity is probably lost on others.
The movie is grisly, bloody and fun but the hope it attempts to engender at its close is in direct conflict with the great cosmic indifference that the rest of the film showcases. Its unravelling is as ferocious and mindless as any given Twitter battle and a good deal more entertaining.