Assassination Nation begins in the town of Salem, Massachusetts, where a data hack unleashes unparalleled chaos on the residents of the suburban town. While it may be a little on the nose to place the story at the site of the famed 1693 witch trials, it is the young women at the center of the data breach who find themselves suffering the most, singled out, picked off one by one thanks to the data breach, and hunted by the townspeople (most of whom turn out to be men exercising deep-seated urges to terrorize women).
In addition to the film’s unapologetic exhibition of violence, the trailer and opening sequence of the film warn viewers of a few more “triggers” that they should be aware of before watching, including bullying, transphobia, sexism, toxic masculinity, and blood. Assassination Nation is part dark high school comedy, part home invasion drama, and part revenge fantasy flick.
With support from Anika Noni Rose, Bill Skarsgård, Joel McHale, Noah Galvin, Colman Domingo, and Cody Christian, the cast’s young women at the center of the story carry the film. If you don’t know them by now, get to know the six Assassination Nation leads, here.
Odessa Young as Lily
Odessa Young plays Lily, the breakout protagonist. Viewers should not mistake Lily for a stereotypical portrait of a teen girl with simple “daddy issues” that cause her to act out in private; she is the glue that holds the entire narrative together, and Young gives a standout performance. Young previously appeared on the small screen in High Life, an Australian television series about a teen’s struggle with mental illness, and will star the upcoming film adaptation of James Frey’s controversial memoir A Million Little Pieces, alongside Juliette Lewis and Aaron Taylor-Johnson.
Suki Waterhouse as Sarah
Model, designer (she created Pop & Suki with her best friend Poppy Jamie), socialite, possible ex of Robert Pattinson—these are all qualifiers often attached to Suki Waterhouse’s name. But her performance in Assassination Nation as Sarah, the gun-toting teen (and sister of Abra’s character, Em) who lowkey saves the day cements her status as a bonafide actress worthy of even bigger roles.
Hari Nef as Bex
You may know model and actress Hari Nef thanks to her role on Transparent as Gittel, a 1930s Berliner. The actress also recently scored a recurring role on the Lifetime series, You, about social media stalking and relationships, with Penn Badgley and Shay Mitchell. Bex, Nef’s character in Assassination Nation, is trans and her frank discussion of whether or not LGBTQ people should have sympathy for those who enact policies to erase them bolsters one of the film’s more nuanced and thought provoking scenes of the film.
Abra as Em
Who knew Abra, the indie R&B musician and Charli XCX collaborator who shares her moniker with a Pokémon, was also an actress? Abra plays Em, the daughter of Nance (played by Anika Noni Rose) and sister of Sarah. She might actually be the coolest member of this cast.
Bella Thorne as Reagan
Bella Thorne can be a divisive celebrity, but she is at her most Bella Thorne when she can play a hot mean girl, and she plays the role so well in Assassination Nation. There simply is not enough Bella Thorne in this film. Reagan’s queen bee persona gives way to one of the more violent scenes of the film, but Thorne also gives viewers a hilarious and brilliantly deadpan analysis of privacy in the digital age.
Maude Apatow as Grace
Maude Apatow, the eldest daughter of aughts comedy auteur Judd Apatow and beloved character actress Leslie Mann, is Grace, a follower of Reagan’s. After her small part in Chris Kelly’s autobiographical film Other People, about a Sacramento family coming to terms with their mother’s terminal cancer diagnosis, Apatow has landed a handful of screen roles. As Grace, we get to see Apatow flex her acting muscles a bit more, and hopefully viewers will see her get even wilder when she stars in Euphoria, HBO’s anticipated series about drug addled Gen-Z teens, with Zendaya and Sydney Sweeney.