THE ASSIGNMENT: hit man becomes hit woman

Michelle Rodriguez in THE ASSIGNMENT

Michelle Rodriguez in THE ASSIGNMENT

In the gloriously pulpy revenge thriller The Assignment, a vengeful plastic surgeon (Sigourney Weaver) captures a hit man (Michelle Rodriguez) and performs sexual reassignment surgery on him, releasing a new hit woman (also Michelle Rodriguez) into the world – and lethal mayhem ensues.

The Assignment comes from the master of the genre thriller, director Walter Hill (The Warriors, The Long Riders, Southern Comfort, 48 Hrs.). Hill is a story-teller who enjoys a brisk pace, and The Assignment flies along its 95 minutes.

Michelle Rodriguez, the toughest of the Tough Chicks, nails the hit man/hit woman roles. She plays the male character very naturally (with a little CGI help in a glimpse of his naked frontside). When the protagonist becomes a woman, Rodriguez keeps her eyes very male – and very pissed off. Her performance at the moment of gender reveal is perfect.

Sigourney Weaver had the audience roaring at her character’s narcissism. Weaver and Tony Shaloub successfully pull of the highly stylized genre dialogue. Anthony LaPaglia is excellent as a mid-level gangster.

Don’t expect Brokeback Mountain for the trans set. This is, after all, an involuntary gender reassignment. The main character is a man who is turned biologically into a woman, while still identifying internally as a man. The gender reassignment is a plot device, and it is a hostile act, not a means of self-fulfillment.

75-year-old Walter Hill was present at the Cinequest screening. Costing only $2.8 million, The Assignment was shot in Vancouver over only 25 days. Hill said that he was “wanted to do a neo-noir comic booky kind of thing” (which well-describes The Assignment). The film was adapted from Hill’s graphic novel, which has been out in France since last year; it will be released in the US before the end of March. Hill expects a sequel to the graphic novel.

The Cinequest audience – by no means the usual action thriller crowd – reacted very favorably to The Assignment. Shown at Cinequest with the title (re)Assignment, this film is being released with the title The Assignment. It’s available now on Ultra VOD and YouTube. It will opens nationally tomorrow, but only on 30 screens. I’ll let you know when it becomes more widely available – because I enjoyed it!

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