Tomboy, starring Michelle Rodriguez, is an enticing, if problematic, thriller on the exploitation side of Trans film. In it, "macho" assassin Frank Kitchen (Michelle Rodriguez rocking a crap beard and a large prosthetic cock) is forcibly subjected to gender reassignment surgery after he kills a deranged plastic surgeon's (Sigourney Weaver) brother.
Director Walter Hill's CV is yay-long and crammed with pulpy hits: The Driver, Southern Comfort, The Warriors, Streets of Fire, and more recently Sylvester Stallone's Bullet to the Head. Tomboy sounds like it could have come from that ‘80s sweet spot where Hill made his name. To enforce that, its got a score by the legendary pop purveyor Giorgio Moroder (Scarface, American Gigolo) and boasts Michelle Rodriguez's first lead role since her debut in 2000's Girlfight. Sure Rodriguez has starred in plenty other films, not to mention her roles in big-budget franchises like Resident Evil and Fast and Furious. There's a lot of weight behind the reputations of many involved and maybe that's why it falls so hard.
The key issue at the heart of the film is that it's been gestating on a back-bench since 1978, when co-writer Denis Hamill first jotted down ideas for a gender-vengeance film. Hill has been sporadically working since the millennium, mostly offering producing credits to the Alien franchise or directing the odd episode of serial Westerns. Hill clearly saw Haywire and John Wick, felt indebted to Abel Ferrara and the exploitative ‘80s, but didn't have the budget, script, or interest to see what that would look like. It almost doesn’t matter how misguided its Trans dialogue may be when the film sucks this badly.
Sigourney's scenes, straitjacketed and sneering, should be a sizzle with Tony Shalhoub on the other side of the table, but no. The most interesting characters get endless streams of expository monologues. Which is unfortunate because it increases the amount of times Weaver has to awkwardly pace a room in order to complete said monologue. Morodor's soundtrack is cool, but one particular track sports lyrics so on-the-nose there's nought to do but laugh.
It’s an inconsistent film to say the least, diving into moody film noir voice over and black and white kit-up sequences, right after lurid, cringey, or pointless dialogue. Weaver's villainous "genius" quotes from only the most popular of literary references (surely a know-it-all would go obscure)and evades transphobia by flimsily claiming she proved genitals and gender are not connected. Hill treats Weaver like Hannibal, rather undeservedly, and has characters calling Kitchen a legend even though he's just turned up on the scene. And that's the tip of the iceberg, Tomboy is riddled with plot holes too large for excuses, and staggering overestimations which make it look deluded.
The boisterous action, that pizzazz which could so easily have saved much of the film, is nowhere to be seen. The few shootout sequences are stale in the face of a post-John Wick Hollywood: most consist of Rodriguez easily popping some totally pointless goons in dull walkthroughs. There's no real catharsis because the film has been edited into a twisting mess, its story snaps as the strained spine of its narrative, which attempts non-linear but achieves non-sensical.
Its admittedly a budget project but doesn’t help itself in any way. Boring, lazy, dumb, Tomboy is a painful disappointment for action fans and Walter Hill fans alike.
TOMBOY / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: WALTER HILL / SCREENPLAY: WALTER HILL, DENIS HAMILL / STARRING: MICHELLE RODRIGUEZ, SIGOURNEY WEAVER, TONY SHALHOUB / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Expected Rating: 6/10