The Assignment, a movie directed by Walter Hill (The Warriors) and starring Michelle Rodriguez, Sigourney Weaver, Tony Shalhoub, Anthony LaPaglia, Terry Chen, Paul McGillion, and Caitlin Gerard, appears to have just about the most poorly thought out concept for a movie you could possibly come up with. A hitman, Frank Kitchen, played by Rodriguez, 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.
Obviously, this didn't go over very well when the film was first announced and later screened at film festivals. GLAAD spokesman Nick Adams captured it pretty well in a statement:
It's disappointing to see filmmakers turning what is a life-saving medical procedure for transgender people into a sensationalistic plot device.
Backlash to the film caused Hill to respond in a Rolling Stone interview:
I think when people see the movie, they'll realize that I'm not trying to make a statement about trans- or cis-male behavior. There's nothing in the movie that doesn't agree with transgender politics or rights, at least in my admittedly limited understanding of them. […] 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.
Rodriguez has also responded to criticism, saying:
The transgender situation, you could talk about that if you were talking about a film that was focusing on the psychology or the social aspects of the situation. It's not about that. It's an action genre film. 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.
Does not trying to take the issue seriously and just using it for B-movie entertainment value excuse "turning what is a life-saving medical procedure for transgender people into a sensationalistic plot device?" We suspect a lot of people would say "no." Having not seen the film, and being cisgender ourselves, it's difficult to have a fully informed opinion, but our inclination is to say "no" as well. What we would want to do here to inform that opinion is solicit the opinions of transgender friends and colleagues and get their perspective… which, now that we mention it, is probably what the makers of The Assignment should have done during the development of the movie.
They didn't, it would seem, so here were are now.
Judge for yourself. Here's the trailer: