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Film / Assassination Nation

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Assassination Nation is a 2018 exploitation thriller written and directed by Sam Levinson.

After the sleepy town of Salem is rocked by a series of online hacks that ruin the lives of its subjects, free-thinking high schooler Lily Colson (Odessa Young) —herself one of the many victims— gets pinned with the blame.

It only goes downhill from there.

With only her friends Bex, Em, and Sarah (Hari Nef, Gabrielle "ABRA" Mirville, and Suki Waterhouse) by her side, it's up to Lily to fight off a horde of armed misogynists who want her dead. Also in the film are Bill Skarsgård as Lily's boyfriend Marty, Joel McHale as Lily's "daddy" Nick, and Bella Thorne as blue-haired cheerleader Reagan.


Assassination Nation contains examples of:

  • Adult Fear: Em's mother gets shot in the gut, is almost helpless to help her imperiled daughter, and is shot through the head before she can rally and rescue her.
  • Adults Are Useless:
    • The adults are utterly powerless to stop the hacks until half the town has had their secrets exposed - at which point most of the adults graduate from useless to dangerous.
    • The only adult in the film shown to be both somewhat competent, and sympathetic to the plight of Lily and her friends is Nance, Em and Sarah's mom - and she gets killed soon after the rioters invade her home looking for the girls.
  • Apologetic Attacker: Diamond apologizes to Bex as he prepares to hang her in front of all his jock friends. He then backs out in the face or her pleas.
  • Ate His Gun: Mayor Bartlett kills himself this way at a town hall meeting.
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  • The Bad Guys Are Cops: The cop that responds to the girls' 911 call is in with the rioters. Emily and Sarah are "arrested," but taken alive. However, it's clear that they're being taken as hostages to lure out Lily and Bex, who've managed to escape the mob.
  • Batter Up!: How Grace kills Reagan, complete with the now-obligatory scene of walking down a hallway dragging the bat behind you.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: Invoked but subverted. While the last time we see them is when the main characters are standing before a mob of gun-wielding rioters, and it's unclear if they survive or not. However, in the last scene Lily's father is yelling at her brother Donny - who turns out to be Erostratus the hacker - that his sister was ALMOST killed - which implies that she at least managed to survive.
  • Character Development: Bex probably has the most substantial arc among the four leads. Earlier in the film, Bex claims she has no sympathy for Mayor Bartlett—a conservative, anti-gay politician—after he commits suicide, but when she's later given the choice to kill Johnny for his attempted murder of her, she declines.
  • Combat Pragmatist:
    • Lily's hardly above improvising weapons when her life is in danger.
    • After a creep comes after her with a knife, she runs into someone's backyard, then takes her assailant out with a garden shovel from around a corner.
    • Lily manages to survive Nick's attack on her by putting razor blades from Nick's old-style razor into a bar of soap and slashing his throat with it.
  • Concealment Equals Cover: Subverted. When the bullies hide behind a car, Em just shoots one of them right through it. They escaped before simply because the four shot above where they hid behind it.
  • Content Warnings: The film cheekily opens with a montage of every trigger warning-worthy aspect to come.
  • Crapsack World: The film's worldview isn't a very favorable one, and it quickly becomes clear that life in Salem sucks - even before the leaks start making people go insane.
  • Devil's Advocate: Lily's father describes her as such when she defends Principal Turrell over his accusations of child molestation during the leaks.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Nance —the mother of Em and Sarah— is fatally shot by one of the home invaders, but not before killing two of them first.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Early in the film, Lily is called into Principal Turrell's office for drawing sexually graphic nudes in her sketchbook in school. By way of explanation, Lily deconstructs the idea that her drawings are pornographic by attacking the idea that any depiction of female sexuality should be considered pornographic. It's clear Turrell sees the talent in her art, so he lets her off with a warning to not do it in school.
  • Female Misogynist: Some of the rioters are clearly women.
  • For the Evulz: The motive of the hacker, revealed to be Lily's younger brother Donny in the final scene. When asked by the police why he released all of the private information, he responds "for the lulz".
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Regarding the identity of the hacker. While Lily is kicked out of her family's home, her younger brother Donny witnesses the scene, seeming very unaffected by it. It later turns out that he's the hacker.
    • An earlier example would be when the mass of personal data is released, one of the few excluded from the leak is Lily, giving credence to the growing sentiment that she is the hacker. It all makes sense when the hacker is revealed to be her brother, as he likely withheld her information to prevent anyone from figuring out that he's the mastermind. Unfortunately, it resulted in his eventual discovery anyway.
  • He-Man Woman Hater: Most of the rioters hunting Lily for causing the chaos are angry men who believe Lily is a whore who deserves to die for what she supposedly did.
  • Hidden Depths: Nance is shown to be kind of a floozy drunk for most of the film, but that briskly changes when she successfully guns down half of the home invaders.
  • Hypocrite:
    • Despite being trans herself, Bex has no sympathy for Mayor Bartlett's plight, even after he kills himself on stage. However, Bex's lack of sympathy is understandable considering that Bartlett was a politician who was anti-LGBT during his time as mayor, and it's discussed by her with the other four girls.
    • In her "The Reason You Suck" Speech, Lily accuses the whole town of this.
  • May–December Romance: Discussed and deconstructed. Lily was having a (non-sexual) affair with Nick, the father of a child she babysat, mostly consisting of her sending him suggestive pictures, and texting back and forth. When she seeks refuge in his home after the rioting begins, he seems supportive at first, but ultimately outs himself as a violent, sexually-aggressive psychopath - with two dead bodies in his bathtub.
  • The New Rock & Roll: The internet, as far as anyone in the movie over 20 is concerned.
  • Pedo Hunt: After the school principal is revealed to have nude photos of his daughter from when she was a child on his phone, he immediately gets accused of molesting her. We never find out if he's guilty, or this was ill-advised but not a sign he abused her (however by modern American laws this still might be considered child porn). In any case, he defense himself gracefully and refuses to resign even when faced with an angry crowd.
  • Perky Goth: Reagan is a blue-haired girl who is usually seen in dark colors. She's also The Cheerleader and an Alpha Bitch.
  • Plot-Triggering Death:
    • Mayor Bartlett's public suicide opens the floodgates for the rest of the film to happen.
    • However, the stakes raise significantly when the first murder occurs: Grace kills her friend, cheerleader Reagan, for spreading nude pictures of her to her male friends.
  • Salem Is Witch Country: Played with. None of the girls are claim to be, or have been called witches, but it plays out much the same anyway.
  • Slut-Shaming: Despite being one of the hacker's victims, Lily is quickly blamed for the hacks, primarily over taking sexy selfie pictures that she sent out.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: Lily's younger brother Donny, who only appears in a few scenes, is Erostratus the hacker, instigator of everything that happens.
  • Trans Equals Gay: After he finds out Bex had sex with Diamond, Johnny intimidates Diamond into thinking he'll be seen as gay by others, which leads to their attempted hanging of her later.
  • Uncertain Doom: The fates of Lily, Em, Sarah, and Bex are unknown, as they're last seen in a Bolivian Army Ending with the rioters. Lily's dad later reveals she had survived, but not what became of the rest.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Lily gives one of these to the whole town at the end.
    Lily: My name is Lily Colson. I’m eighteen-years-old, and I don’t know if me and my friends are going to live through the night. This entire fucking town wants to kill us. And they may say that it’s because they thought I was behind it, or that I’m a whore, I’m immoral, I’m a homewrecker, I deserve it, I have it coming. Well, guess what? I didn’t hack anybody’s shit. I didn’t do it, and I don’t know who did. As for being a whore, a homewrecker, immoral? Sure. It doesn’t hold a fucking candle to your righteousness. That’s the real sickness here, your righteousness and hypocrisy. It’s the simple fact that you can’t live by the rules you set, yet you still pretend. This is your world. You built this. If it’s too strict, tear it the fuck down. But don’t look at me. Don’t take your hate out on me, I just got here. And I have no clue where to go, because, from the moment I arrived, all I was ever given were orders. “Smile. Open up. Cross your legs. Spread your pussy. Speak softer. Scream louder. Be quiet. Be confident. Be interesting. Don’t be so difficult. Be strong. Be an angel. Be a whore. Be a princess. Be anything you want to be. Even the President of the United States of America. Just kidding." Fuck you. You still want to kill me? Rape me? Stab me? Shoot me? Let’s go. Rally your fucking crew. Grab your guns and hide behind your masks. You want to do this in real life now? Give it your best shot. Because you’ve prepared me my whole life for this. You may kill me, but you can’t kill us all.


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