The Assignment is a 2016 film starring Michelle Rodríguez and Sigourney Weaver, and it’s directed by Walter Hill. I know that it sounds impressive, and let me add that the movie theme was composed by Giorgio Moroder. Given the names at stake (I read them and bough the Bluray on the spot, without knowing anything about the film), if you haven’t seen the movie already, you’re probably thinking that you should have. Well… maybe not.
The plot is simple: it’s about revenge. But it’s told in a non-linear way and has gigantic plot holes that I just couldn’t understand and that didn’t make me appreciate this film much, even if it was shot by one of my favorite directors…
And here’s the plot, briefly: Frank Knight (Michelle Rodríguez who plays a man with a beard and chest hair) is a killer for hire. One day he’s paid to kill a rich man called Sebastian (Adrian Hough), but his sister (Sigourney Weaver) doesn’t take it very well. She’s a surgeon and, to get revenge, she decides to change Frank’s sex (turning him into the beautiful Michelle Rodríguez) and then lets him free (or lets her free, I guess). Frank, as soon as he can, kills all those responsible until he faces the surgeon.
The story is told in flashbacks by the latter questioned by a psychiatrist (Tony Shalhoub) and also by a video diary of Frank as a woman. There are a lot of dates and places written on screen but they are useless details. The bottom line is that for 85 of the 95 minutes of the film we the audience simply watch two people talking while sitting on chairs. Not cool, in an action film.
But, you may say, this is a noir, not an action flick! And I may even agree with you, except that I saw The Maltese Falcon (1941) the other day and I assure you that it was a completely different experience. Even the plot holes may be justified due to the noir genre, since another famous noir movie such as The Big Sleep (1946) was full of plot holes. But, to me, this sounds more like an excuse than anything else.
What plot holes am I referring to? The surgeon takes revenge on her brother by torturing the actual killer, not who commissioned the murder. Strange, isn’t it? And after she captures Frank in the finale, why doesn’t she have him searched? It seems obvious to me that at the first opportunity Frank breaks free, kills his bodyguards using the pistol that conveniently no one thought of taking from him, and takes revenge on her! The story of the mad nurse used as the official version doesn’t work at all… Plus, the famous surgeon accepts to be locked up in an asylum in order to protect the good name of… a nurse? No, it doesn’t make any sense? And I understand that Hill wanted to make an openly B movie paying homage to what he loved as a kid (he himself mentioned Tales from the Crypt, a TV series based on 1950s comics)…
But I really couldn’t appreciate this absurd plot (that reminds me of another film that I didn’t like: The skin I live in, 2011). I appreciated Rodríguez canceling her femininity to be believable as a man (although in the opening scenes, more than looking like a man, she looks like a woman with a fake beard), but this film has too many flaws. The plot twists didn’t surprise me, the action is limited to short shootouts in which Frank quickly kills everyone else, the narration is cumbersome, the dialogues are banal, if not forced… I expected much more! Apparently, the books and comics that inspired the movie are worth reading, so maybe I should read them instead of continuing to complain about The Assignment.
In short, I recommend it only to those who don’t want to miss anything done by Walter Hill or Sigourney Weaver, or to those who want to see Rodríguez naked, even if in disturbing (rather than exciting) scenes. Ciao!