|Directed by||Walter Hill|
|Music by||Ry Cooder|
|Edited by||Phill Norden|
|Distributed by||Saban Films|
|Budget||under $3 million|
The Assignment (also known as Tomboy, and formerly known as (Re) Assignment and Tomboy: A Revenger's Tale) is an American crime thriller film directed by Walter Hill and co-written by Hill and Denis Hamill. The film stars Michelle Rodriguez, Tony Shalhoub, Anthony LaPaglia, Caitlin Gerard and Sigourney Weaver.
The film had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 11, 2016, before being released through video on demand on March 3, 2017, prior to a limited release on April 7, 2017, by Saban Films.
Dr. Rachel Jane (Sigourney Weaver) is a rogue plastic surgeon with a twisted vision of a better world. After losing her medical license, she began an illegal practice and performed unwanted surgical experiments on impoverished homeless people. The film is split between a present-day timeline in which she has been institutionalized and her condition is being assessed by Dr. Ralph Galen (Tony Shalhoub), and a second timeline two years into the past.
Three years prior, Jane's brother Sebastian was murdered by professional killer Frank Kitchen (Michelle Rodriguez). After discovering Frank's identity, Dr. Jane hires Honest John Baconian (Anthony LaPaglia) to double-cross him. Seeking revenge, but also seeing an opportunity to assess how much physical identity matters, Jane performs gender reassignment surgery on Frank and turns him into a woman.
Horrified by his new appearance, Frank has a mental breakdown. Finding a box in the room with hormones and a tape recorder, Frank discovers a message left to him by Jane encouraging him to start over. Leaving the hotel, Frank contacts a girl he hooked up with named Johnnie (Caitlin Gerard) and asks to stay at her home while he recovers.
The police do not believe Frank exists, frustrating Jane. When Galen contradicts her, she attacks him in a fit of rage before being restrained. A short time later, she asks for a legal deposition so that she can confess. She recounts the events surrounding Frank's surgery and the murders at her clinic that led to her incarceration, but ultimately expresses no remorse for her actions.
Frank sets out to kill everyone involved in his operation, including the men on Honest John's payroll. After learning that the surgery cannot be reversed, he interrogates Honest John, demanding the identity of his surgeon. Honest John implies that Johnnie knows the doctor and is involved. When Frank confronts Johnnie, she admits that the doctor hired her to monitor Frank, but does not know her name. While tempted to kill her, Frank chooses to spare her and send her to Reno, Nevada. She agrees to help him lay a trap for the doctor. However, the doctor's bodyguards were expecting Frank, and they sedate him.
Frank awakens in a straitjacket and finally comes face to face with Dr. Jane. She announces her intention to perform another surgery on him to remove his right arm, so he can never kill again. Frank manages to overpower and kill all of Jane's bodyguards, and her surgical assistant. Jane reappears, threatening Frank with a large knife, noting that he has run out of bullets. Admitting she is a coward “when it comes to life and death situations”, Jane suggests that they go their separate ways amicably. Frank refuses, reloads his gun with a bullet he had taped to the sole of his boot and shoots Jane, non-fatally. After staging the scene to look as if Jane's assistant killed everyone, Frank is seen holding Jane's knife over her unconscious body.
After completing his revenge, Frank records a video in which he tells his side of the story, to be released after his death. He reveals that Johnnie decided to stay in Reno. At her final meeting with Galen, Dr. Jane reveals that she had hoped to convince him to help her be deemed mentally fit for trial, but realized that it was over when she attacked him. She instead decided to accept her fate, while using the deposition as a means to tell her side of the story for anyone interested. The film ends with Jane examining her mutilated hands; Frank had severed her fingers to ensure she would never practice again.
In 1978 Denis Hamil wrote the first draft of a script called Tom Boy. It was about a juvenile delinquent who rapes and murders a woman whose husband is a plastic surgeon. He's arrested and goes to prison, but the surgeon captures him and turns him into a woman. The character goes on to commit a series of murders. Walter Hill recalls, "I liked its audacity, and its potential to be … this always sounds patronizing, but a kind of really terrific B movie. You know, the kind of movie that doesn't get much love when it comes out, but you love watching it on TV years later, much more than you do the 'big' movies of the day." Hill optioned the script with his own money around ten years after he first read it. He tried to write a different version but could not get it to work. He put the project aside until he found a copy of the first draft fifteen years later. He believed he knew how to do it this time and re-optioned the script.
Hill had success releasing a graphic novel in France and was looking for a follow up. He wrote up the project as a graphic novel.
Hill's agent introduced him to a producer, Said Ben Said, who was willing to invest. "The only rules he laid down was that it'd have to be made for very cheap, and there had to be some name value in the cast," said Hill.
"This movie totally comes out of the same animus as my Tales From the Crypt shows," said Hill. "I mean, these are nasty people, caught in a nasty situation, that out of the experience are somewhat chastened and wiser for it. Assuming they survive—not all survive! Which was certainly out of the old EC Comics. So it’s a very small movie, but it’s a king-size Tales from the Crypt."
Principal photography on the film began on November 9, 2015 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Walter Hill directed the revenge thriller based on a script he co-wrote with Denis Hamill, which Saïd Ben Saïd produced along with Michel Merkt through SBS Productions.
The end title theme is composed by Guns N' Roses keyboardist Melissa Reese.
In May 2016, Saban Films acquired distribution rights to the film. It had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 11, 2016. It was released through video on demand on March 3, 2017, prior to opening in a limited release on April 7, 2017.
The Assignment received negative reviews from critics. It currently holds a rating of 31% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 54 reviews, with a weighted average of 3.8/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "The Assignment's premise is bizarrely intriguing; unfortunately, it's also just one of many ingredients fumbled in a disappointing misfire from director Walter Hill." On Metacritic, the film holds a rating of 34 out of 100, based on 20 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".
Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter gave the film a positive review, writing: "Hill's most entertaining and…accomplished film in some time", and "an instant cult item". Dennis Harvey of Variety gave the film a negative review, writing: "Gracelessly mashes together hardboiled crime-melodrama cliches and an unintentionally funny 'Oh no! I'm a chick now!!' gender-change narrative hook." Wendy Ide of Screen International also gave the film a negative review, writing: "Despite liberally quoting Shakespeare and Edgar Allen Poe [sic], the screenplay is just not sharp enough to make the audience feel vindicated about dumbing down."Michelle Rodriguez won best actress from Verband der Deutschen Filmkritik.
The transgender community was largely disappointed by the image of forced gender reassignment surgery and a boycott was created in response. The director Walter Hill responded by stating, "I wouldn't make a movie that hurt transgender people. Some of them have had a tough time of it, and the last thing I want to do is make anyone's road harder. But look, I understand the concern. Is it lurid? Yes. Is it lowbrow? Well, maybe. Is it offensive? No. I'm just trying to honor the B movies that we grew up with."
- ^Guerrasio, Jason (April 7, 2017). "The director behind a controversial new gender-bending action movie explains what inspired it". Business Insider.
- ^"The Assignment". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved July 26, 2017.
- ^Alexander, Chris (April 3, 2017). "Interview: Walter Hill Talks The Assignment and Making Genre Movies His Way". ComingSoon.net. Retrieved July 12, 2017.
- ^ abcdeFear, David (September 16, 2016). "Walter Hill on Controversial Revenge Thriller '(Re)Assignment'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved October 8, 2016.
- ^Brown, Phil (September 15, 2016). "Walter Hill on His Controversial Thriller '(Re) Assignment' and Why He Quit 'Deadwood'". Collider.
- ^Sragow, Michael (April 3, 2017). "Deep Focus: An Interview with Walter Hill". Film Comment.
- ^"Michelle Rodriguez films Tomboy, A Revenger's Tale in Canada". Mail Online. November 17, 2015. Retrieved April 27, 2016.
- ^ abKit, Borys (October 28, 2015). "Michelle Rodriguez to Star in Gender-Reassignment Thriller 'Tomboy'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 27, 2016.
- ^Ford, Rebecca (February 10, 2016). "Berlin: Michelle Rodriguez Is Out for Revenge in 'Tomboy'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 27, 2016.
- ^"Melissa Reese: On the Road with Guns N' Roses". ROLI. November 11, 2016. Retrieved October 14, 2017.
- ^Busch, Anita (May 23, 2016). "'Tomboy, A Revenger's Tale' From Walter Hill Acquired By Saban Films". Deadline.com. Retrieved April 16, 2017.
- ^"(re)ASSIGNMENT". Toronto International Film Festival. Retrieved April 16, 2017.
- ^Nordine, Michael (January 23, 2017). "'The Assignment' Trailer: Michelle Rodriguez and Sigourney Weaver Star in Controversial Revenge Thriller". Indiewire.com. Retrieved April 16, 2017.
- ^Perez Jr, Ruben (January 14, 2017). "The Assignment, Starring Michelle Rodriguez & Sigourney Weaver, On Ultra VOD 3/3 and in Theaters 4/7". Entertainment Rocks. Retrieved April 16, 2017.
- ^"The Assignment (2017)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved April 16, 2017.
- ^"The Assignment". Metacritic. Retrieved April 16, 2017.
- ^McCarthy, Todd (November 9, 2016). "'(Re)Assignment' Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved November 27, 2016.
- ^Harvey, Dennis (September 11, 2016). "Toronto Film Review: '(Re)Assignment'". Variety. Retrieved April 16, 2017.
- ^Ide, Wendy (September 12, 2016). "'(re)ASSIGNMENT': Toronto Review". Screen International. Retrieved April 16, 2017.
- ^"Verband der Deutschen Filmkritik e.V."www.vdfk.de. Retrieved October 14, 2017.
- ^O'Hara, Mary Emily (August 18, 2016). "Transgender community disappointed by bizarre new Michelle Rodriguez film '(Re)Assignment'". The Daily Dot. Retrieved August 20, 2016.
- ^Ragan, Scott (October 7, 2016). "'(Re)Assignment' Comic Based on Michelle Rodriguez's Controversial Film Is Getting a U.S. Release". Out. Retrieved October 14, 2017.
- ^Tedder, Michael (April 4, 2017). "'The Assignment' Director, Writer Defend Sex Reassignment Storyline: 'Character Is Not Transgender'". Variety. Retrieved October 14, 2017.
- ^Abrams, Simon (April 5, 2017). "Walter Hill Defends The Assignment: 'This Is Entirely Consistent With Transgender Theory'". Vulture.com. Retrieved April 16, 2017.
Short Writing Assignments
Journal Entries, Ruminations, Quickwrites, Single Paragraphs
- Topics for short writing assignments can include the contribution to the film's story made by one of the following: (1) a cinematic element, such as music; (2) a theatrical element, such as lighting; or (3) a literary element of the film's story, such as expository phase, theme, plot, conflict, symbol, or characterization. Topics for short writing assignments can also include:
Journal Entries: Students can be assigned to write a journal entry, either in class or as homework, responding to the events or episodes in the movie as it progresses. The journal may or may not be focused on one topic; topics can change each day.1. What was the strongest emotion that you felt when watching the film?
2. What did you learn from this movie?
3. Which character did you [admire, hate, love, pity] the most?
Sample Assignment: We are going to be watching the movie, "Remember the Titans," for part of the class period each day this week. As homework, every day after a class in which we watch the film, I'd like you to write a short journal entry about your reactions to the movie so far. [Describe the length of the entry desired or the amount of time students should spend writing the entry.]Ruminations: Students can be required to write ruminations in which they respond to the motivations, values, or attributes of characters in the film.
Sample assignment: We are going to be watching the movie "Cyrano de Bergerac." After you have seen the movie, please write a page or two of your thoughts about whether Cyranno was a bully. Include a comparison of his actions in the play to those of a bully you know or have heard about.Single Paragraphs: Students can be asked to write a single paragraph about an element of a film and how that element contributes to the story or to the artistic presentation.
Sample Assignment: Write a paragraph about the use of camera angle in the scene in which Dorothy first meets the Wizard of Oz. The topic of your paragraph is: "What does the camera angle add to the scene?" The paragraph should have a topic sentence, citations to evidence to support the point being made, and a conclusion.Quickwrites: Students can be asked to write without preparation and in a set period of time, their thoughts or observations on a topic selected by the teacher. Quickwrites often become a ritual at the beginning of each class.
Sample Assignment: "To Kill a Mockingbird" ends with two ironic twists. Name one of them, describe why it is ironic and what theme of the story is highlighted by the ironic events.
Essays - Formal and Persuasive
Topics for Formal or Persuasive Essays with Research Outside the Confines of the StoryHistorical Accuracy: Students can research and evaluate the historical accuracy of the film or of a scene in the film and, where inaccuracies are found, students can theorize about the filmmakers' reasons for making the change from the facts.Topics for Essays Based on an Analysis of the Film
Historical, Cultural, or Literary Allusions: In many films, historical, cultural, or literary allusions are important in conveying ideas. Students can be assigned to investigate one or more of these references.
Differences Between the Book and the Movie: When a movie is based on a book, students can be asked to describe those differences, ascertain whether the movie is true to the story told by the book, and make a judgment about whether the changes made by the movie improved the story.
Themes and Messages: Students can be asked to identify and evaluate, using research from sources other than the film, the wisdom of any theme or message which the filmmakters are trying to convey.
Issues of Interest Relating to the Subject Matter of the Story: All films present issues of interest to the audience aside from the story itself. For example, the concept of attachment disorder is important in the film "Good Will Hunting" even though the film can be appreciated without knowing much about the disorder. However, the film may motivate students to research and write an essay about attachment disorder. The movie "October Sky" refers to the early U.S. and Russian space programs. Students who have seen this movie can be assigned to write an essay about what has occurred in space exploration in the last twenty years and how it differs from what occurred in the 1950s and 1960s.Literary Elements and Devices in the Story Presented by the Film: These include plot, subplot, theme, irony, foreshadowing, flash-forward, flashback, characterization, and symbol. Students should be required to describe the use of one element or device and its contribution to the overall message of the film. TWM offers a Film Study Worksheet to assist students in organizing their thoughts for this assignment.
Cinematic Elements in the Film: Cinematic elements include: shot (framing, angle, and camera movement), sound (including music), lighting, and editing. Students can be asked to identify and discuss the cinematic elements in an entire film or to focus their analysis on a particular scene. The analysis can be limited to the use of one cinematic element or it can include several. Students should be required to describe the use of the cinematic element as well as its contribution to the overall message and artistic presentation of the movie or the scene. See the TWM student handout: Introducing Cinematic and Theatrical Elements in Film. TWM also offers a worksheet to help students identify theatrical elements in a film. See TWM's worksheet entitled Cinematic and Theatrical Elements and Their Effects.
Theatrical Elements in the Film: Theatrical elements found in movies include: costumes, props, set design, and acting choice. Students can be asked to identify and discuss the theatrical elements in an entire film or to focus their analysis on a particular scene. The analysis can be limited to the use of one theatrical element or it can include several. Students should be required to describe the use of the theatrical element as well as its contribution to the overall message and artistic presentation of the movie or the scene. See the TWM student handout: Introducing Cinematic and Theatrical Elements in Film. TWM also offers a worksheet to help students ""identify theatrical elements in a film. See TWM's worksheet entitled Cinematic and Theatrical Elements and Their Effects.
Creative Writing Assingments and Film Critiques
Creative Writing Assignments: Tasks which will stimulate students' creativity include: (1) write a new ending to the story; (2) add new characters or new events to an existing scene and show how the story changes as a result; (3) write an additional scene or incident, with its own setting, action, and dialogue; (4) expand the back-story of one of the characters and make it into a separate story; (5) write a letter from a character in the story to the student, or from a character in the story to the class, or from one character in the story to another character in the story, or from the student to a character in the story; (6) outline, story board, or write a sequel.
Sample Assignment: Imagine that Jean Valjean is still mayor of his adopted town of Montreuil-sur-mer. You are Bishiop Myriel, the man who had faith in Jean even though Jean stole his candle sticks and other silver. Jean has requested that you write a letter to Javert asking Javert to leave Jean Valjean alone. What would you say in that letter? Think about the nature of the man the Bishop is trying to convince, the tone he would take, and the arguments he would present. [Describe the length of the letter.]Film Critiques: Some students will enjoy writing a review of the movie, possibly for publication in the student newspaper. Students should be instructed to make sure that they cite evidence to support their views.
Sample Assignment: Imagine that you are a film critic for a major newspaper. Write a critique of the film, "The Outsiders." Be sure to support your conclusions with evidence and logical arguments. [Describe the length of the critique.]
Other Assignments, Projects and Activities
- Mock Interviews: Students can work together in groups of two to write and perform a mock interview in which one plays a character in the film and the other takes on the role of the interviewer. The answers should reveal the values of the character.
Debates: Many films offer controversial social or political ideas which can easily become the topic of vigorous debate. Students can be divided into teams to support or oppose an idea presented by the film.
The Great Divide Separate the class into two groups representing sides taken on a particular issue. Students in support of the point should sit together facing those opposed to the point. Students should use the rules of Accountable Talk to argue their positions. Accountable Talk requires that students listen carefully and adhere to a code for responses to one another's words. Each respondent must begin his or her point with phrases such as:
Students may not resort to name calling or any other insults and must back up their points with reference to the work being discussed. When students hear points that cause them to change their minds, they must get up and take a seat on the other side. Often, an entire class will become convinced of one position and all seats will be moved to one side of the room. Pro-con T-Chart organizers or any other form of note taking can be beneficial so that students can refer to points they felt were important when it comes time to write their essays.
I hear what you are saying, but . . .
Your point is good; however I want to say . . .
I'm unclear about what you mean . . .
Granted, your point has validity; however, consider . . .
I understand what you are saying; however, the facts are . . .
Socratic Chairs: Place a number of chairs at the front of the room and select appropriate students to fill them. These students will serve as a panel to discuss the issue that must be resolved or at least clarified so that the students can write their essays. Students remaining in their desks should take notes using a graphic organizer, such as a pro-con T-Chart, and can ask questions either during or at the end of the panel's discussion. Sometimes students may want to relinquish a chair to a member of the audience in order to further the point he or she is making. Vary the rules to fit the goals of the discussion but keep to the rules of Accountable Talk.
Creative Projects: Students can be given the opportunity to compose poetry, music, song, or dance relating to an idea in a film. They can also produce a film or create a painting or a poster.