The idea for the revenge thriller film The Assignment has been around since the late 70’s, when director Walter Hill received a draft of Tomboy written by Denis Hamill. As Hill became busy with other projects (such as The Warriors and Alien), the project fell to the side. Still unable to get the movie idea out of his head, Hill optioned the material in 1990, but yet again, a satisfactory script failed to come to fruition. Finally, over three decades from the first time Walter Hill was introduced to Tomboy, the film is complete.
The Assignment follows ruthless hitman Frank Kitchen (Michelle Rodriguez) who awakens in a room only to find out the he’s had an operation that has turned him into a female. This was done as an experiment on social identity by rogue surgeon Dr. Rachel Kay (Sigourney Weaver). As she tracks down Dr. Kay for answers and revenge, Kitchen leaves a bloody trail of bodies in her wake.
In the beginning of the film, Rodriguez plays the male role and continues to keep up certain masculine features even after the change. Although she isn’t exactly the soft feminine type as it is, seeing Rodriguez go full man (and I do mean FULL man) couldn’t of been an easy role to take on. Once I got over what I was seeing, I really enjoyed the performance, as short lived as it was. It honestly took a lot of balls (pun intended) to carry the role as confidently as she did.
There’s no doubt that a forced gender reassignment story would cause controversy, regardless of which decade it came out in. Transgender equality and issues are major concerns at the moment, and are perhaps more talked about than ever. The Assignment does not exactly venture into that territory, however. It is obvious that Walter Hill’s aim is a good ole’ fashioned revenge flick with a twist instead of a statement on the transgender lifestyle or community.
With that being said, Hill delivers on what is intended. The dialogue has that neo-noir style of cheesiness to it, while the violence is graphic and over the top. The all-star cast delivers and the chemistry between the central characters is perfect. Rodriguez was a true powerhouse with her performance, showing incredible range. The scenes are brought together with comic book-style art that adds a bit of color and whimsy to the darker story. This is undoubtedly inspired by Hill’s graphic novel of the same name, which you can find at Titan Comics.
If you’d like to learn more about the film from director Walter Hill’s perspective, be sure to check out my interview here.