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  Assignment, The Michael/Michelle Gives 'Em Hell
Year: 2016
Director: Walter Hill
Stars: Michelle Rodriguez, Sigourney Weaver, Tony Shalhoub, Caitlin Gerard, Anthony LaPaglia, Terry Chen, Ken Kirzinger, Paul McGillion, Adrian Hough, Paul Lazenby, Zak Santiago, Lia Lam, Alex Zahara, Caroline Chan, Lauro Chartrand, Hugo Ateo, Chad Riley
Genre: Action, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Frank Kitchen (Michelle Rodriguez) is an assassin who thought little of those he murdered for the right price, but knew somehow there would be a reckoning eventually. What he did not reckon on was the precise nature of that comeuppance, and it was connected to a rogue cosmetic surgeon named Doctor Rachel Jane (Sigourney Weaver), who had made a lot of money on the black market for gender realignment surgery, for those who often could not afford the high prices of the legitimate processes, or were unwilling to wait on the list before they were taken. Her brother had been a ne'erdowell, and while Dr Jane believed she was doing good, she also believed she had the power to make others improve, including her brother. Including Frank.

One of the quietest controversies in movie history, The Assignment, also known as Tomboy, made waves thanks to its apparent transgender subject matter and garnered a few outraged headlines online for everyone involved to have thought making a thriller about a man turned into a woman against his will was a good idea. But the actual community, which contained more than one opinion on the subject and were not one homogenous whole, were more divided, mostly because the character of Frank Kitchen simply was not transgender at all: he was a man in a woman's body because he used to be a man, and had been happy in that role, and was now very cross about not being one anymore.

Therefore this was quickly exposed as a gimmicky revenge movie rather than any kind of serious statement on twenty-first century gender politics, and the whole uproar was quickly forgotten as the film crept out and nobody paid it much attention anyway. Presumably something of a disappointment from those producers who hoped they would have a ready-made audience of curiosity seekers keen to see what star Rodriguez looked like as a naked man: there was an amusingly detailed "nude" makeup outfit she wore that gave us an eyeful as Frank emerged from the shower, hairy pecs, prosthetic penis and everything. That had some entertainment value, as did her sex scene with Caitlin Gerard, but that sense of gimmickry never left it.

After Frank is altered to become a woman, he wakes up in a seedy hotel room in an Autumnal California and is horrified to see what has happened to his body. This resulted in scenes of full frontal nudity from Rodriguez as Frank examines himself, looking suspiciously like a regular naked woman rather than a transsexual who has undergone the operations in the past couple of days, though according to the star she wore special makeup to look precisely like that, an unconvincing claim when she simply appeared, well, you hesitate to say "normal", but pretty much like Michelle Rodriguez with her bits out. Considering the importance of the effect to the plot, you wondered why director Walter Hill thought it was so necessary to have his lead so undressed anyway, and perhaps he would be better to emphasise the action element instead.

Frank does hit the vengeance trail as expected, and with this director they were scenes of ruthless efficiency as befitting his protagonist, but there was a nagging feeling he was getting by on the tough chick charisma of his star without actually offering her much in the way of personality. Just as your sexuality is not the be all and end all of what you are like in your demeanour or interactions with other people, you really think there should be more to Frank than his grievances and propensity for violence. But then the penny dropped: Frank... enstein. Weaver's doctor was the mad scientist of many a B-movie, and Rodriguez was her lost and disoriented "monster", seeking answers to their existence and finding nothing but cold rejection from the "God" they had so disappointed. Remember the sixties Hammer horror Frankenstein Created Woman? The Assignment was essentially that as a noirish thriller, its sexual twist marking it out as closer to exploitation flick than sensitive treatment of a hot button topic. Bear that in mind, and you'd get along with it as a novelty item, offbeat if unable to live up to its full potential, but a welcome lead for an unconventional star. Giorgio Moroder had a hand in the synth soundtrack.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Walter Hill  (1942 - )

American director, writer and producer who specialises in action and Westerns. Entered the industry in 1967 as an assistant director on The Thomas Crown Affair, and in 1972 adapted Jim Thompson's novel The Getaway for Sam Peckinpah. Hill made his directing debut in 1975 with the Charles Bronson actioner Hard Times, but it was The Driver that introduced his hard, stylish approach to the genre. The Warriors has become a campy cult favourite, while The Long Riders was his first foray into Westerns, with Geronimo, Wild Bill and the recent TV show Deadwood following in later years.

During the eighties and nineties, Hill directed a number of mainstream hits, including 48 Hours and its sequel, comedy Brewsters Millions and Schwarzenegger vehicle Red Heat, as well as smaller, more interesting pictures like Southern Comfort, Streets of Fire and Trespass. Hill was also producer on Alien and its three sequels, contributing to the story of the middle two parts.

 
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