Sometimes I’m attracted to a film because it looks intriguing. Sometimes I’m curious about a film because it looks suspenseful. And sometimes I want to check out a film because it just looks goddamn insane. That’s what attracted me to The Assignment, based on its premise alone: a hitman gets a sex change operation performed on him against his will and he wages a one man revenge spree to kill the doctor that performed the operation on him. And hell, with Michelle Rodriguez as the erstwhile hitman and Sigourney Weaver as the doctor with an agenda of her own, I was gearing up for a borderline offensive pile of shlocky exploitation. But I was sadly mistaken, because The Assingment is one of the most boring fucking action films I’ve ever seen.
Now for film aficionados that declaration may come as a surprise. This movie was directed after all by the great Walter Hill. For those who need a refresher, he’s the director behind The Warriors, 48 Hours, Another 48 Hours, and Streets of Fire. He also wrote the Steve McQueen classic The Getaway. So what the hell happened to this absolute legend of cinema? Well problem one is that last arguably good film he made was back in 1990. His subsequent directorial efforts have ranged from bad (Supernova) to absolutely tedious (Bullet to the Head). A sad way to go for a director who absolutely reveled in depicting seedy criminal underworlds while pushing the envelope in what his script and stories would permit. But this film isn’t his mark of redemption, sadly it’s just going to be a promising idea that had every ounce of potential drained out of it.
So let’s start with the eye-catching premise and work our way down from there shall we? We’re first introduced to our anti-hero, Frank Kitchen (a stupid alias for a hitman) who’s no shit Michelle Rodriguez in a beard. Oh but then the film expects us to be impressed when his character starts having sex with some nurse played by Caitlin Gerard and she is TOTALLY a man you guys…using a cheap knockoff of the digital effect done to Chris Evans in Captain America: The First Avenger. So right off the bat, our suspension of disbelief is treating this like a comedy but the film wants to take itself seriously. So through a convoluted series of double crosses, Frank gets placed on the operating table, given gender reassignment surgery, and wakes up looking perfectly like a woman.
Now, I’ll take the wild premise of a hitman being gender-swapped against his will, but come on movie, don’t treat me like an infant. A major surgery to the face and body would leave scars. And hell, I’m sure Michelle Rodriguez wouldn’t mind sitting on a makeup table to make it look like she has some nasty ass marks…I mean she willingly said “yes” to slapping a beard on her for God’s sake. Plus the makeup would have added something…anything to what you were watching on screen which was between jack and shit.
The movie’s told in a bizarre flashback style where Sigourney Weaver explains how she wound up in a mental institution with no one believing her tale that she forced a hitman to undergo transgender surgery, but then this overarching story gets interrupted for Michelle Rodriguez to give her side of a story…which isn’t all that different from Weaver is saying. So you may be wondering what the hell is the point of two narrators, especially two that clearly do not give a shit of how they’re telling the story. I’ve never seen two actresses be so bored with what they’re given.
Thankfully, Sigourney Weaver wakes up when the camera is on her and gives an absolutely deliciously cheesy performance that’s half villain monologue and half mastermind toying with her prey in her psychologist, played by Tony Shalhoub. It’s just a shame the final confrontation between her and Michelle Rodriguez feels so limp given that the film was hyping it up for…all of about ten minutes. Yeah, Rodriguez’s character kind of bumbles around for a large part of this film, usually wondering what the hell she should do next.
That’s not an exaggeration, first she takes a good long 15 minutes of the film after her surgery to figure out how to be a woman, all in a tiny bathrobe for the better for her tits to pop out at random intervals. Then, she decides to take her revenge on the criminals who sold her out to Sigourney Weaver by taking out each member of the criminal organization one by one in boring, flat shootouts that are over before you know it. The filmmakers even hype up the fact that she’s going to take pistols at a time and go to town, only for her to take out her enemies in awkwardly-filmed ways.
Now maybe I’ve been spoiled on more solid action fare as of late, but there’s simply no excuse for lazy shootout scenes that serve no purpose to the character, the plot, or even tone of the film. Also, at random junctures, the director comes up with a cool screen transition by freezing the frame and illustrating Michelle Rodriguez in whatever pose they got her in.
Speaking of which, I should point out that she’s really, REALLY bad in this movie. She’s walking around with an obviously forced deep voice to show how Frank Kitchen sounded BEFORE the life-changing surgery, but then she forgets all about it halfway through and goes about growling her lines. In the Fast & Furious films, she’s typically the badass action chick, but injects just a tiny bit of personality to make you believe she’s trying to take every ridiculous situation she finds herself in stride. Now granted, that could be because she was in the hands of a competent director with a screenwriter who knew how to pen appropriate lines for her. As I hope I’ve already established, The Assignment possesses neither quality.
God, this was such a slog to get through. Nothing of worth is in here. Not the acting, not the writing, not the effects, not the action, and definitely not the premise. The idea alone is enough to attract attention what with the current political climate surrounding the rights of transgender individuals to be identified to a gender that they were not born with or even the waves of violence towards such people. You could have had plenty there for a good ol’ fashioned Death Wish but with an LGBT hero instead. Or hell, just use the absurd idea to make nude parade while releasing unrelenting gore for the exploitation crowd.
Instead, you have a paint-by-numbers revenge flick that’s destined to wander the howling wastelands of bargain bins in a seedy comic shop. Absolute waste of freaking time, this is a…
SOME OL’ BULLSHIT