The Assignment

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
The Assignment Movie Poster Image
Mature, pulpy thriller has iffy take on transgender themes.
  • R
  • 2017
  • 95 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The main character is given gender reassignment surgery against her will, which isn't just highly inauthentic but is also portrayed as a punishment/setback. But at the same time, the main character emerges as a tough, super-cool problem-solver who effortlessly earns audience sympathy and becomes someone worth rooting for. Definitely likely to prompt discussion.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The main character is a hired killer who commits violence acts and seeks revenge, with no consequences. She's a transgender character who was changed from a man to a woman against her will. Brief Asian racial stereotyping ("chink" and "Chinaman"). 

Violence

Brutal shootings/killings. Blood sprays/spurts. Dead bodies. Kicking, beating (including with a baseball bat). Streaming blood. Bloody wounds. Brief images of surgery, with gory, bloody cotton/bandages. Hypo needle held to neck.

Sex

Full-frontal male and female nudity. Heterosexual sex scene with thrusting (includes tearing open condom wrapper), as well as brief sex scene between two women. Woman in sexy underwear; it's assumed that she's a prostitute. References to pimps and hookers.

Language

Frequent strong language includes uses of "f--k," "bulls---," "s--t," "t-ts," "a--hole," "ass," "piss," and "idiot," as well as racial slurs ("chink" and "Chinaman").

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Secondary character snorts cocaine. Scenes of heavy drinking. Social drinking. Drugs shown.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Assignment is an action/thriller with a potentially controversial topic: The main character, a hit man, is given gender reassignment surgery against his will, changing from a man into a woman. The content is extremely mature, including graphic nudity (both male and female full frontal), bloody shootings, beatings, and killings, and brief but semi-graphic sex scenes (both opposite-sex and same-sex). Language includes "f--k," "s--t," and "a--hole," and some characters are shown using drugs. And the main character has scenes of hard drinking during stressful moments. That said, the movie itself is skillful and, though inauthentic and somewhat irresponsible, it's possible that it could become a cult classic.

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What's the story?

In THE ASSIGNMENT, a prickly, Shakespeare-and-Poe-quoting surgeon, Dr. Rachel Kay (Sigourney Weaver), lives in a mental hospital and is interviewed by Dr. Ralph Galen (Tony Shalhoub). She tells her story in flashback. Her brother, in trouble with gangsters, becomes the target of a hit man named Frank Kitchen. Dr. Kay subsequently kidnaps Frank and performs gender reassignment surgery on him. She does this partly as revenge and partly to see what Kitchen might do with this "fresh start." And so Kitchen awakens as a woman (Michelle Rodriguez), and, after searching for a way to reverse the procedure (and failing), decides to get her revenge on everyone connected to Dr. Kay -- all the way up to dangerous, well-protected gangster "Honest John" (Anthony LaPaglia).

Is it any good?

On the one hand, this thriller starts out with a ludicrous, wrong-headed idea, but on the other hand, as directed by Walter Hill, it's so skillful and pulpy that it could become a cult classic. Certainly The Assignment (the title changed from (Re)Assignment) is inauthentic, and the surgery is initially viewed as a punishment or a setback. And the timing of the movie's release, when real-life discrimination is the norm against transgender people, isn't ideal. But it's clear that this isn't a hateful movie.

Hill -- who first worked with Weaver on Alien (1979), which he produced -- is best known for directing action classics The Warriors and 48 Hrs., as well as the recent Bullet to the Head. His filmmaking here is rugged, hard, and snappy, delivering a "B" movie punch right out of days gone by; it even includes transitions designed to look like comic-book panels. A theme in most of Hill's films involves characters who find themselves in unfamiliar territory. And Rodriguez is no different; she's a tough hero that anyone can sympathize with and root for.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about The Assignment's violence. Is it supposed to be fun? Upsetting? What were your reactions? How does the film elicit those reactions? What's the impact of violent media on kids?

  • What is the film's take on gender reassignment surgery and transgender people? Do you think it's accurate? How could you find out more?

  • How does the movie portray drinking and drug use? Does it make substance use seem enjoyable? Glamorous? Or does it seem sad/desperate? Are there consequences?

Movie details

For kids who love thrills

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