With his fevered, stylish Assassination Nation, writer-director Sam Levinson (Another Happy Day) has attempted a revenge-thriller manifesto, a sort of splatter-gore Medium post on subjects including Insta culture, selfie politics, mob justice, sexism, transphobia and the turned-on viciousness of women-hating internet doxxers.
Its first act of violence, which comes surprisingly late, gets memed and hashtagged before the blood and brain matter has hit the floor. Before the extended dudes-on-the-hunt finale, which finds our teen girlfriend heroes stalked by their whole murder-minded town, Levinson stages sharply performed monologues and debates about issues of the day. How much painful effort goes into the creation of self-shot hawt n00dz? Why do so many people assume that nudity itself must always be sexual? How much empathy is owed a family values politician whose life gets destroyed by the exposure of his online habits?
As a hacker exposes a small town's secrets, Levinson's charismatic quartet -- including Odessa Young, Abra, Suki Waterhouse and Transparent's Hari Nef — persevere in their hyperconnected online lives, engaging in flirtations and hookups that would prove scandalous if revealed. Levinson's satiric targets are now the hacked, the people whose lying, cheating and shit-talking goes viral. It's instead aimed at everyone who feigns outrage, who pretends that if all the data on their cellphones leaked, they would have no reason for shame.
Despite the killing-spree craziness of its final reels, much of the film is a how-the-kids-live-now potboiler, replete with guileless dirty talk and immense bedroom windows that seem to have been installed with peeping in mind. While sometimes messy, this material is emotionally resonant and cinematically alive.