The Assignment (2017; Dir.: Walter Hill)
By Daniel Barnes
*Now playing at the Presidio 4 in San Francisco.
The devolution of the Hollywood mainstream from a relatively low-frills genre film factory into soulless purveyors of perversely over-branded pap cleanly overlaps with the career arc of writer-director Walter Hill. Over the course of forty-plus years in the industry, Hill went from invigorating tyro to beleaguered A-lister to old-school washout, and now he’s moved on to feisty outsider. His latest independent film is The Assignment (originally titled (Re) Assignment when it premiered last year at TIFF), the story of a scuzzy hitman (Michelle Rodriguez) forcibly gender re-assigned into a woman by a wealthy, weirdo doctor (Sigourney Weaver) who seeks revenge for her brother’s death. It’s vintage meat-and-potatoes Hill – gritty and funny, brusque and stylishly economic, with a fun streak of fuck-it trashiness throughout. Unfortunately, any sense of low-brow, comic book fun continually crashes against a concrete wall made of one-note performances (the casting of Weaver and Rodriguez is so on-the-nose that it’s borderline parody) and a lunkhead, monologue-heavy script.