The Assignment Screen 64 of 14 reviews

The Assignment

2016

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  • Pulpy, facile, and not quite action-packed, the film probably won't go down as the apex of Hill's storied career. But vis-a-vis Frank's reenergized, newly queer relationship with his pre-kidnapping girlfriend, The Assignment toes a fascinating line between paperback exploitation and insinuating psychodrama.

  • Bless the film festival that allows me to go from the sublime drawing room to the sublime gutter, and from A Quiet Passion to (re)Assignment. A very different but scarcely less personal portrait of a lady, Walter Hill’s lurid fever-dream unfolds like a lost Hong Kong thriller from the 80s, a companion piece to his underrated Johnny Handsome, and a most bizarre treatise on artistes maudits.

  • Not all of Hill’s movies are great, and The Assignment certainly isn’t... But even a mediocre Walter Hill film has more style and energy—and a finer sense of the sweet spot between joy and despair—than 90% of the action thrillers that get made today. Considering its over-the-top plot mechanics, The Assignment isn’t quite as nutso and passionate as it ought to be. Even the violence, gritty at times, feels a little impersonal and detached. But the film’s tawdry precision is compelling by itself.

  • It's in the great tradition of uninhibited storytelling from Edgar Allan Poe’s fiction to EC Comics. Hill doesn’t allow propriety to muffle the power of his narrative. With clarity and confidence, he relates the twisted tale... The movie is about dueling acts of vengeance: first Jane’s, for her brother’s murder, then Kitchen’s, for her forced alteration of his masculine body. By the end they catch up to each other in brutal and surprising ways.

  • Although LGBTQ groups attacked the film sight unseen, Re (Assignment) is less about sexual politics or matters of topical concern than it is a movie obsessed with resuscitating age-old generic preoccupations that acknowledges contemporary sensibilities while also nodding to the tradition of the exploitation film. A glorious mess, it’s as difficult to thoroughly dismiss Hill’s film as it is to take it seriously.

  • ...The brazen outrageousness of such works has the potential to bring us closer to essential human truths, or at least force us to grapple with the contradictions of living in an ever-shifting world. The contextual burden is on Hill, and there's enough specificity—of emotion, of tone, of perspective—to suggest he's in no way making some broad, insensitive statement about a group of people, so much as he's illuminating a single character's crisis of faith, and the radical revelation that results.

  • I saw Walter Hill’s thoroughly ridiculous and enjoyable (re)Assignment, pleasing for this old school director’s brisk genre shorthand... and the unexpectedly detailed performance by Caitlin Gerard as Michelle Rodriguez’s girlfriend. And I cannot deny the force of the scene when Rodriguez’s killer, once a man, wakes up from his captive surgery and takes a first look at his nude female body: one of the most extraordinary scenes in cinema this year.

  • A potential powder keg of (trans)gender politics provided anybody ever actually sees it after its TIFF premiere, Walter Hill’s (Re)Assignment is sort of two movies in one: a low-rent, bullet-in-the-head revenge thriller that embraces clichés like long-lost friends, and an inconngrously high-minded disquisition on style that cribs from Shakespeare and Poe en route to the conclusion that politics and morality have no place in a work of art.

  • The film overuses certain noir/comic-book conventions, like providing an unnecessary amount of location details at the commencement of each scene, and also flashing forward and backward in time in such a way that it seems to even know that it’s a hacky device... Many will find this film offensive on aesthetic levels, but they’re likely missing the point behind (Re) Assignment: The schlock is there to be ridiculed, not taken seriously.

  • It isn’t art, it’s trash. That’s, of course, a distinction that doesn’t actually exist, but Re(Assignment) is a proudly pulpy joke made for an audience of one, its director... The film’s structure is convoluted and lags in places, sometimes for no real reason: a scene in which Frank leaves her dog with a friend before going to kick ass serves literally no narrative function. But a new Walter Hill film is always a good thing.

  • It’s a very silly movie, packed with nudity, questionably realistic medical science, and overwritten supervillain dialogue. But when it all comes down to it, it’s just another so-so revenge tale about generic mobsters and henchmen pointing guns at each other in under-lit nondescript rooms. Perhaps that’s the point. One just wishes that Hill still knew how to mount a shoot-out. He used to be one of the best.

  • Male-gaze presumptuousness is only its most immediate glaring problem. The tricksy structure doesn’t have much of a payoff (even though Mr. Hill constructs sequences with deft fluidity). And the role of the surgically altered assassin defeats poor Ms. Rodriguez. Utterly recognizable behind a fake beard during her scenes as a man, she signals her post-surgery confoundedness by making like Marlon Brando in “The Wild One” or “On the Waterfront.”

  • The film has a visual beauty that affirms Hill's stylishness and craftsmanship, emulating in the tradition of The Warriors the aesthetic of comic books, abounding in pop-art tableaus that paint San Francisco as a red-light-infused noir underworld that's forever rooted in the 1940s. But the narrative is a patchy, disjointed shambles, alternating between Frank and Kay's perspectives as they each guide the audience through flashbacks that lead toward their inevitable confrontation.

  • The movie is designed to antagonize, and it will undoubtedly succeed in pissing off two overlapping constituencies: those repelled by the callous notion of transgender identity as punishment; and those disgruntled by the movie’s primitive plot mechanics, cardboard characters, cheeseball dialogue, and low-rent production values. Both camps, I suspect, will find their counterparts in recuperative niches. No movie this shamelessly wrong can fail to cultivate a cult.

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