Review: Assassin gets sex change in inane ‘Assignment’
Trash cinema gets a bad name in Walter Hill’s embarrassing exercise in pulp
An assassin is the unwilling recipient of a sex change procedure in “The Assignment,” a bogus piece of pulp trash that should have never made it off of the operating table.
Gritty veteran action director Walter Hill (“The Warriors,” “48 Hrs.”) is in barrel-scraping mode with the story of Frank Kitchen (Michelle Rodriguez), a brutal contract killer who is turned into a woman by a vengeful surgeon (Sigourney Weaver).
Rodriguez, in a career-worst performance, dons a fourth-rate New York tough guy accent as Kitchen. Pre-op, Rodriguez looks so silly in a beard (she oddly resembles Oscar Isaac) that the movie should have been stopped dead in its tracks right then and there. That we get the obligatory full frontal shot of Rodriguez as a man should tell you everything you need to know about the would-be-titillating nature of this grindhouse failure.
After the operation (again, lots of full frontal shots), Kitchen seeks revenge in an underworld of crime bosses (including Anthony LaPaglia as a killer named Honest John) that feels like a blatant rip-off of “Sin City.” Meanwhile, most of Weaver’s scenes are staged interrogations with a doctor (Tony Shalhoub) that feel like they were edited in from a different movie altogether.
It’s not just that the subject matter is unsavory, it’s that everything about “The Assignment” (originally titled “Re-Assignment”) is generic and lazy. Kitchen is painted as a world class killer, although we never see any evidence of his high-level skills or evasive tactics. Hill is too concerned with getting his jollies over the supposedly taboo subject matter to care.
“The Assignment” is an embarrassment all around, a murky, regrettable piece of gutter cinema. Next year’s Razzie Awards race starts here.
Rated R: for graphic nudity, violence, sexuality, language and drug use
Running time: 95 minutes