Walter Hill's upcoming film The Assignment, starring Michelle Rodriguez and Sigourney Weaver, appears, and we're basing this just on the trailer to be fair, to be a really poorly thought out idea. The movie sees Rodriguez play a hitman named Frank Kitchen, who has been given forced gender reassignment surgery by an evil doctor in order to cause him "immense psychological pain." Frank, now a woman, seeks revenge on the doctor.
The movie has been criticized as transphobic because, as GLAAD spokesman Nick Adams put it, "It's disappointing to see filmmakers turning what is a life-saving medical procedure for transgender people into a sensationalistic plot device." And the film's stars, writer, and director have been responding to those complaints, though it's unclear if they're making things better, or worse.
In a recent article on THR, Rodriguez focused on a story about choosing her own prosthetic penis for the film, and also said, "I made a Tinder account for myself [as a man] and it was so funny. Got some matches!" Previously, she had defended the film by saying, "We're not trying to get psychological or deep about it, so lay off. It's an entertainment piece. Calm down, guys. I'm on your team."
Weaver also defended the film, saying that people would see what it was about when they watched it, adding, "Certainly from my point of view, what my character does to Frank Kitchen is unforgivable. And it certainly demonstrates the pain of being forcibly put into the wrong body. There's nothing more cruel."
Writer Denis Hamill said, "The movie is no way anti-transgender because the main character is not trans himself. The gender is between the ears, it's not between your legs. He's still a man." Hamill originally wrote the story in 1978, which could account for its insensitivity to a modern understanding of transphobia. However, it's still being made now, in 2017, with all the benefits of hindsight.
For Walter Hill, however, complaints about the film are indicative of a larger problem with society, rather than the film itself. "Identity politics are probably the bane of the country currently," Hill said, "but storytelling is storytelling. There are no subjects that are sacrosanct, in my opinion, and you just have to be able to defend what you do."
The Assignment will be released on April 7.