Viewers who’ve yet to see the Purge movies, Spring Breakers, The Fits and/or need a Brian De Palma refresher are invited to save time and watch Assassination Nation instead.
Writer/director Sam “Son of Barry” Levinson takes these influences and more, concentrates them into a bizarre megavitamin that’s less than the sum of its parts and saturated with reprehensible behavior that’s meritless even as social critique.
The movie gets off to a troubling start by cheekily listing its “triggers” (e.g. rape and transphobia) up front, with subliminally-fast clips from the forthcoming film as if having a disclaimer makes what’s about to come acceptable.
Set in the town of Salem, the story carries quasi-Crucible undertones as the residents’ secrets are made public through the efforts of a hacker and speculation of his or her identity inspires many of the affected to respond with violence, depicted with the unimaginative gratuitousness of someone who’s seen the aforementioned influences yet remains oblivious to their creators’ intended purposes.
Amidst the unappealing content, centering on four tight-knit high school girls, is some promising filmmaking that’s largely wasted in this environment. A long-take of complicated camerawork that covers the outside of a house as invaders escalate to an attack has echoes of the opening of Blow Out and “the” scene from True Detective’s first season, while other ambitious overhead and full-room tracking shots make the frequent handheld cell phone visuals seem all the more incongruous and ugly.
Further out of place is an enchanting marching band sequence over the end credits that would have made for a quality music video, yet mostly makes viewers wonder why the rest of Assassination Nation isn’t as fabulous and well-conceived.
Grade: D-plus. Rated R. Now playing at Biltmore Grande and Carolina Cinemark