There’s howlingly awful and then there’s “The Assignment,” a thoroughly ridiculous, numbingly slow neo-noir thriller about a low-life hit man forcibly given gender reassignment surgery by a vengeful doctor.
The red flags are raised from the start as Sigourney Weaver, suggesting a wax museum Hannibal Lecter, is introduced in a straitjacket playing a calculating, Shakespeare-quoting mental ward patient and disgraced reconstructive surgeon who exacted a decidedly unorthodox retribution on the guy responsible for taking a hit out on her brother.
That would be the snarling Frank Kitchen (Michelle Rodriguez, initially outfitted with unconvincing facial hair and prosthetics), who regains consciousness in a sleazy motel room to make the shocking discovery that he’s no longer a he. Weaver proclaims, “I’ve liberated you from the macho prison you’ve been living in!”
Director-co-writer Walter Hill, who could once reliably be counted on to deliver the action-packed goods, including “48 Hrs.” and “The Warriors,” evidently regarded “The Assignment” as a return to the pulpy, graphic comic style of his 1984 cult favorite, “Streets of Fire,” but the streets in this garish Canadian production are paved with career-burying, cheesy sludge.
As for Rodriguez and Weaver, who previously worked together in “Avatar,” let’s just say that they’ve moved on to happier assignments and politely leave their performances at that.
Rating: R for graphic nudity, violence, sexuality, language and drug use.
Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Monica Film Center, Santa Monica