Assassination Nation review: Plenty of style to go around, but slim picking on story.
In my opinion, the best/worst critique a film can get is that it has a “style over substance” approach. It basically says the film has a unique setting or premise that is shown through the film, but that this unique style is pretty much all the film has going for it. Oddly enough, this phrase basically describes Sam Levinson’s Assassination Nation as it has a really fun and dark style, but lacks much plot or character to be anything more than just style.
The film has a really cool spin on suburban life and achieves a grotesque and wild style that The Purge series wishes that it could have. It’s bloodthirsty and outlandish antics are really fun to watch and it never takes itself too seriously. It has serious topics like internet privacy, male gaze, and internet shaming and has serious moments on these issues, but remembers to have a bit of fun with these topics.
The camera work and more meta-styled humor also add to the film’s eye-catching style. There’s some great camera movements that create truly suspenseful moments and some truly horrifying scenes. The character’s self-aware lines add some much needed comedy to the dark tones of the film and fit the characters’ more confident and aware personalities. There is also some slick editing that tells moments from multiple perspectives.
Its colorful setting is also brought to its characters, who carry the same wildness, but don’t always have the same depth. Our main protagonists, a group of friends who are proud of their sexuality and go against the prude views of their town’s older generation, can be both annoying and awesome at the same time. On one hand, their attitudes and ideas are interesting and something that isn’t explored much in film. They also represent strong female characters in a fresh way and I found the group to be pretty alluring. On the other hand, these characters can off as annoying and their social issue messages can be a little be preachy at times.
But the plot is where the film’s style starts to fade and the lack of substance comes to light as the story is thin and feels like it has loose ends. The film has too many things going on at once and viewers can be overwhelmed very quickly. This leaves things to be unanswered and have certain aspects feel unimportant. It also goes from being a simple film about a town getting personal information leaked to the town basically turning to hell very quickly and it can be a bit jarring at times. This was undoubtedly part of Levinson’s vision, but it just felt a little tough to manage as a viewer.
Now even with its lack of substance, Assassination Nation’s style still makes for a relatively fresh experience that audiences can enjoy. It doesn’t mean that the film doesn’t have its flaws, but it mostly achieves what it’s trying to be. Surely some will find the film to be offensive and not so politically correct, but it does give a trigger warning so maybe we should just give it a pass.