Stars: Michelle Rodriguez, Sigourney Weaver, Caitlin Gerard, Tony Shalhoub, Terry Chen, Anthony LaPaglia, Paul McGillion, Paul Lazenby, Ken Kirzinger, Zak Santiago, Caroline Chan, Adrian Hough | Written by Walter Hill, Denis Hamill | Directed by Walter Hill
Frank Kitchen is an assassin at the top of his game. When he’s double-crossed by a group of ruthless gangsters he falls into the hands of a rogue surgeon, known only as The Doctor, who transforms him into a woman against his will. Aided by a nurse with her own set of secrets, Frank the hitman becomes Tomboy the hitwoman and revenge is the first thing on her mind…
Tomboy (aka The Assignment), arrives on DVD and VOD here in the UK to little fanfare. Which, looking at the cast and crew, you’d think is surprising. The film is headlined by Michelle Rodriguez from the Fast & Furious franchise and Aliens’ Sigourney Weaver; with support from Anthony LaPaglia (Without a Trace) and Tony Shaloub (Monk). Hell, the film comes from legendary director Walter Hill, the man behind classics such as 48 Hrs, The Warriors and Streets of Fire - and who covered similar ground in 1989′s Johnny Handsome . Yet early press on the film concentrated on its subject matter; and saw audiences – without so much as seeing the movie – labelling it “problematic” but – honestly – it’s easy to see why. After all, today we’re more aware of, and more sensitive to, LGBTQ issues and, admittedly, the idea of a hitman being surgically altered to be a female would seem like a slap in the face for the transgender community.
A perfect example of how times change. Years ago the idea of a hitman being turned into a hit-woman would be labelled as pulp fantasy, today it’s [apparently] a political statement. However the story of Tomboy was originally written by Denis Hamill over 40 years ago… 40 YEARS AGO! Only now, in the day and age of trolls, internet white knights and social justice warriors has the film finally been made. Which itself is probably more problematic than the story itself. After all, why would you lense a film that you know is going to be politicised by certain groups? Why put yourself and your film under such scrutiny? Why? Well probably because, like that old advertising for Last House on the Left said, IT’S ONLY A MOVIE…
In fact Tomboy is, is a fantastic movie. A sleazy, pulp crime thriller with a refreshing and, more importantly, new story. There’s no rehashing, remaking, rebooting or reduxing here. Hill and Hamill have concocted a film that, years ago, would have been hailed as a groundbreaking, innovative thriller. And unlike the 12A/PG-13 action of blockbuster franchises currently clogging up cinemas (cough, Fast & Furious, cough), this is a grown-up film for grown-ups. If you like your movies packed with action, violence and nudity then Tomboy is for you – just leave your political beliefs at the door and enjoy the bad-ass ride that Walter Hill unveils on screen.
Speaking of bad-ass, Michelle Rodriguez is the perfect choice for hitman Frank Kitchen. We all know she can kick ass from her stint in the aforementioned supercar action franchise; but here she also gets to display her acting talents – really running the gamut of emotions as the sexuality-confused hitman: hatred, sadness, strength, vulnerability and more. All in the space of the films brief 95 minutes running time. Meanwhile Sigourney Weaver is eerily evil as the dominant doctor, not only hellbent on destroying Frank but also proving she is a force majeure herself. Weaver’s performance in the scenes in which she goes face-to-face with Tony Shalhoub’s shrink is easily a powerful as Anthony Hopkins’ role as Hannibal Lecter – she imbues her character with that same self-centred, knowing, ego-maniacal megalomania that made Lecter so iconic.
Tomboy is a hidden gem in this months DVD release calendar, and is a great example of why we here at Nerdly try to cover as many direct to market releases as possible – to weed out films like these and give them the recognition they deserve.
Tomboy is available now in the UK, on DVD and VOD, from Signature Entertainment.