If there’s one movie you’re not supposed to like this year, it’s “The Assignment.” If you’re a member of the LGBT community, you’re supposed to be offended by its mere existence. If you’re the regular average Joe, the themes of sex change combined with copious male and female nudity will offend. Conversely, we at GROIN kind of like it! “The Assignment” (2016) is the new film by Walter Hill, a consistently good director whose work includes “The Warriors” and “Streets of Fire.” Perhaps dissatisfied with well-crafted but non-distinctive recent work like “Bullet to the Head,” Hill has opted to make the first action flick (that I know of) about a sex change.
Sigourney Weaver plays a brilliant, quite mad doctor who wants revenge for the death of her estranged brother. Frank Kitchen (played by Michelle Rodriguez) is a super-macho gangster who committed the crime and is about to get the surprise of his life. He is now a she, and will have to discover his feminine side as he enacts bloody revenge for an operation he never wanted. Meanwhile, the audience gets graphic male and female nudity so we are convinced that Frank is authentically male and female.
This movie kind of trashes the SF Tenderloin District lifestyle in its immorality and seediness. In between scenes there are comic book like jump cuts reminiscent of his earlier classic The Warriors. The antagonists include mad plastic surgeons, psychiatrists, Chinamen Mafioso types, and dive bar trolls. The best thing is the quick pace of the film, and the high number of action sequences. The film’s use of SF as a dark backdrop of societal collapse is effective. This movie subversively does not give the gay lifestyle a pass. As such, it is a brave film.
We are supposed to be offended, apparently, that Frank didn’t want the operation and doesn’t like being female. I was more interested in the performances of Rodriguez and Weaver. Rodriguez, who was also good in “Girlfight,” is convincing as the transgender protagonist. We believe her as both sexes, and we also believe she is tough and unhappy. For Weaver, this is her best work since the 1990’s. Proclaiming her superiority to all of mankind and outraged that more people don’t know Shakespeare and Poe front and backwords , she is the most memorable antagonist in a long time. Rent it to sneer and watch it to gasp, because “The Assignment” is the rare B-action flick that doesn’t suck.