• Assignment, The



    Assignment, The
    Released by: Lionsgate Entertainment
    Released on: June 6th, 2017.
    Director: Walter Hill
    Cast: Michelle Rodriguez, Sigourney Weaver, Tony Shalhoub, Anthony LaPaglia
    Year: 2016
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    The Movie:

    It might seem odd to some that a movie directed by a filmmaker as talented as the legendary Walter Hill and featuring an A-list actress like Sigourney Weaver would go straight to video, but here we are, and after watching The Assignment it isn’t really that surprising. What’s more surprising is that Hill optioned the rights to this one back in 1978 and it took him this long to finally make the movie (though he did have it published as a graphic novel before the movie was made, which is fitting, as the feature has a very comic book inspired tone and feel to it).

    At any rate, the story begins in a mental hospital where Dr. Ralph Galen (Tony Shaloub) interviews Dr. Rachel Kay (Weaver). He wants to know how and why she wound up here and how and why she was found on an operating table, presumably left for dead, with a pile of bodies around her.

    As she tells her story, we find out that it revolves around Frank Kitchen (Michelle Rodriguez with some prosthetics and makeup making up for the fact that she is not actually a man), an assassin who lives for the moment and who profits off of death. Frank’s life changes pretty drastically when he takes a job that isn’t actually a job at all but a reasonably elaborate setup that sees him kidnapped and then subjected to gender reassignment surgery courtesy of nutty doctor Kay. Why did she do this? Well not only did Frank take out a family member of Honest John Hartunian (Anthony LaPaglia) but he also killed Rachel’s brother. Obviously the various parties want revenge, and what better way to take out an alpha male hitman like Frank than to turn him into a woman? Well Frank doesn’t take too kindly to this, and once she’s ready, she loads up her guns and sets out to get some work done.

    It’s a pretty nutty concept for a movie that a filmmaker like Walter Hill really could have gone all out with. That doesn’t happen. While Hill’s track record hasn’t been great lately (studio interference screwed up Supernova pretty bad and Bullet To The Head was just not very good even if it did have a rad axe fight it) but the guy clearly still has a lot of talent and a lot of creativity. We don’t see that here. The story provides ample opportunity to really go with this but it never quite catches fire the way it should. It’s sleazy at times and it is plenty violent. It is quick with its pace and the action scenes are staged fairly well, but despite the concept it never feels like more than an average shoot’em up/revenge film, something that we’ve all seen before. Never mind the fact that the concept of punishing a man by turning him into a woman (an act of nefarious surgery carried out by an actress who played one of the strongest heroines in cinema history, no less!) might not fly with roughly half the world’s population, the biggest problem here is that the originality that could have been here just isn’t. The movie isn’t boring, it’s an entertaining enough time killer, it just isn’t all that memorable.

    As to the performances? Michelle Rodriguez gets criticized for not having much range and for scowling more than actually acting – which isn’t necessarily untrue – but she has her own certain appeal and screen presence. She’s also more than capable of handling herself in some intense firefights and combat scenes. As such, she’s not bad here at all, in fact, she’s quite well suited for the part. No blame for the film’s problems can really be levied at her feet, because she does exactly what the role calls for and she does it well. As to Weaver? Well, she’s basically wasted here as the story’s narrator of sorts. When she is involved in the action she’s not doing much except sort of sitting there and her character isn’t all that well written. Do we really need another ‘villain’ that does things like quote Shakespeare to demonstrate how literate and intelligent they are? Had she been written as a full on psycho, that would have been much more interesting to see. Anthony LaPaglia is pretty fun here as the main mobster behind Kitchen’s predicament and Tony Shaloub perfectly fine as the framing device his character is, but it’s Rodriguez who does the bulk of the heavy lifting in the film and it’s Rodriguez who really stands out because of it.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    The Assignment arrives on Blu-ray from Lionsgate in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 2.35.1 widescreen and it looks excellent. Shot digitally there’s obviously no print damage of any kind to discuss, the image is pretty much immaculate. Colors look great and really nicely reproduced here. Black levels are also nice and strong but the image remains devoid of any obvious crush and has solid shadow detail. There’s very good texture and fine detail here as well, which lets your eyes take in all the icky detail of the corpse as the movie plays out!

    The English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track is fine. There are no problems with any hiss or distortion, the dialogue sounds clean and clear and the music has good range and presence to it. There are quite a few scenes, particularly the more action oriented ones, where the surround activity is particularly impressive. Levels are nicely balanced and there’s a nice strong low end that adds to a few key scenes (gun shots really benefit from this). Optional subtitles are provided in English and Spanish.

    Extras are mercifully slim, limited to a ‘filmmaking portraits photo montage,’ menus and chapter selection. As this is a combo pack release a DVD version of the movie is also included and tucked away inside the case along with the two discs is an insert card with a download code for a Digital HD version of the movie. The case also fits inside a nice cardboard slipcover.

    The Final Word:

    The Assignment is a swing… and a miss in more ways than one but if nothing else, it’s fun trashy time killer. The movie looks and sounds really good on Blu-ray, so full marks for that. This was entertaining enough but here’s hoping Hill’s next feature is better than his last two.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!