The Assignment (2016)

  • Time: 95 min
  • Genre: Action | Crime | Thriller
  • Director: Walter Hill
  • Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Michelle Rodriguez, Tony Shalhoub


Following an ace assassin who is double crossed by gangsters and falls into the hands of rogue surgeon known as The Doctor who turns him into a woman. The hitman now a hitwoman sets out for revenge, aided by a nurse named Johnnie who also has secrets.

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  • Tell me if you’ve heard this one before: defrocked plastic surgeon exacts revenge on the hitman sent to kill her beloved brother by turning him into a woman. So far, so predictable, yes? The Assignment certainly puts a provocative and subversive spin on the usual revenge yarn, but it’s not enough to overcome the minefield of cliches contained within this somewhat entertaining flick.

    The avenging surgeon in question is Dr. Rachel Kay, played by Sigourney Weaver, whose coolly imposing performance may be the best thing about the movie. Straightjacketed for nearly the entire film, she meets with psychiatrist Dr. Galen (Tony Shalhoub), who has come to question her about the shoot-out that occurred in her illegal operating theater two years earlier that left her wounded and several men dead. The man behind the mayhem, she recounts, is Frank Kitchen.

    Except Frank Kitchen doesn’t exist – or at least he doesn’t exist as he used to. Seen checking into a seedy hotel in San Francisco and meeting with local mob boss Honest John (Anthony LaPaglia) for his latest job, the bearded Frank spends a few hours between the sheets with attractive blonde nurse Johnnie (Caitlin Gerard) before being beaten and drugged by Honest John’s crew. When Frank regains consciousness, he discovers to his horror that he has been turned into a woman. “I’ve freed you from this masculine prison you were living in,” Dr. Kay duly informs Frank in a video message, but Frank is having none of it and decides to kill everyone involved, starting with Honest John and his men with Dr. Kay as the intended final target.

    Though veteran director Walter Hill ably navigates in and around the predictable tropes of the genre as well as his and co-screenwriter Denis Hamill’s often risible dialogue, this B-flick never truly reaches full pulp. His decision to incorporate comic-book graphic transitions would be admirable if the segues didn’t feel cheap and tacked on. Action scenes are well-handled if a bit pedestrian.

    Michelle Rodriguez brings her trademark swagger to the role of Frank, seething with fury and disgust at what’s been done to Frank’s identity. Yet, there’s no overlooking the fact that this is essentially a one-note character. So is Dr. Kay and all the rest of the figures that populate the film, but only Weaver seems to display any tongue-in-cheek awareness of the trashy silliness of it all.

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