The Assignment Blu-ray Review
Dr. Rachel Jane (Sigourney Weaver, A MONSTER CALLS) sits in a psychiatric facility confined by a straightjacket. The doctor (Tony Shalhoub, who played the voice of Master Splinter in the new TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES movies) enters, noting her past unethical practices and recent encounter with a hitman. The situation left her brother dead, and the woman’s emotionless way of talking seems to be a result of it.
Rachel has been greatly affected by the murder, which came at the hands of Frank Kitchen (Michelle Rodriguez, THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS franchise). Frank is the main focus of revenge for Rachel, who plots to utilize her skills as a surgeon to get it. But it’s not a botched facelift or turning his nose upside that Rachel is planning–she’s thinking more along the lines of turning Frank into Francesca.
Through a series of flashbacks (“22 Months Before” reads one, as if two years would have somehow been too long ago), Frank is shown to be a macho type, taking fondly to guns, money and girls. But the viewer is likely to tilt their head at the sight of him–the entire look of Frank is like a cheap Halloween costume, one that might be labeled “Dude with Ponytail and Beard set.” (The brief moment when Frank emerges from the shower, however, is far more realistic and detailed…)–calling out the distracting charade so quickly and easily that the transformation from male to female doesn’t have nearly the shock factor it’s intended to. It has all the power of watching Rodriguez unglue the beard in front of a mirror.
Is THE ASSIGNMENT (which went through such names as TOMBOY and (RE)ASSIGNMENT during production) supposed to be funny? It would at times seem like the movie wants to be camp, but it also never appears to be agreed upon by the cast and director. While Rodriguez slaps on a gruffy voice and Weaver looks and sounds like she’s reading off of a cue card, screenwriters Walter Hill (also director) and Denis Hamill do their part to ensure that the plot and characters have all the brains of a doorknob.
THE ASSIGNMENT is dumb and, it can be argued, harmful to the trans community. While this was certainly unintentional, the gender switch is handled in such a selfish manner to push the plot that there is clearly no consideration for how the community would react. That the screenplay was first conceived in the late 1970s might lend to some of the insensitivities, but shouldn’t four decades have been enough to at least add a touch of decency to the pages?
Directed by Hill (whose career as director began in 1975 with HARD TIMES and has included such films as 1979’s THE WARRIORS, 1982’s 48 HRS. and 1996’s LAST MAN STANDING), THE ASSIGNMENT is a dull and distasteful movie. It’s so inept and sloppy that one wonders if Hill just pulled the script out of a drawer, blew dust off the cover and drove to the set.
Video: 2.39:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. Details are strong overall while colors show up accurately.
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD MAster Audio. Subtitles in Spanish. Dialogue is clean, but it’s the scenes with gunplay that offer the most in terms of audio.
Filmmaking Portraits (2:12) features production stills accompanied by narration from the movie.