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Review: (Re)Assignment (TIFF 2016)

(Re)Assignment (TIFF 2016)
4 10

PLOT: A macho hit-man becomes the unwilling recipient of a sex-change performed by a brilliant surgeon (Sigourney Weaver) with a grudge. Now a beautiful woman (Michelle Rodriguez), the killer sets-out to get even.

REVIEW: (RE)ASSIGNMENT is nothing if not topical, so it was a surprise when - in his pre-film introduction at TIFF - director Walter Hill revealed the script for his latest film had been floating around Hollywood since the late-seventies. An attempt at a much grittier film than his poorly received, studio-financed BULLET TO THE HEAD, despite the gender-bending plot (RE)ASSIGNMENT isnít that different from the rest of Hillís output, with the hero/heroine being a tough assassin who would have been right at home in some of his other pulpy works.

Too bad then that (RE)ASSIGNMENT comes-off as just another quickie actioner devoid of any really innovative action, despite the hook, which was given more thought-provoking treatment in the similarly themed THE SKIN I LIVE IN. Michelle Rodriguez does her best in a dual role, playing both the pre-op assassin (given the pulpy name Frank Kitchen) and the post-op beauty he becomes.

Rodriguez actually convinces somewhat as the male character, wearing a beard and evoking a certain relish in his maleness. She actually fares worse as the now female Kitchen, seeming too comfortable in his new skin given the circumstances and natural. Sheís also saddled with some really bad dialogue thatís trying to be pulpy but just seems silly. It doesnít help that Hill constantly cuts away to comic-book panel transitions, the same thing that marred his directorís cut of THE WARRIORS.

Whatís worse is that Hill, whoís directed incredible action movies like 48 HRS, STREETS OF FIRE, and EXTREME PREJUDICE wasnít able to stage any half-way exciting action scenes despite the abundance of gun-play and the physically capable Rodriguez as his heroine. Even in the movies of his that didnít really work (ANOTHER 48 HRS, LAST MAN STANDING) you could also count on some bad-ass action. Thereís none of that here, and the tacked-on romance with a nurse named Johnny (Frankie & Johnny - get it?) isnít convincing despite the presence of the beautiful Caitlin Gerard in the part. She seems like too nice a girl to get caught-up in this underworld saga.

Even still, (RE)ASSIGNMENT is almost worth seeing for one reason - Sigourney Weaver. Cast against type as the mad doctor, Weaverís having a whale of a time and luckily - is on screen a lot. Hill favors her with almost as much screen-time as Rodriguez, with the movie framed as her testimony in a mental institution, as given to Tony Shaloubís shrink, who she condescends to amusingly. Weaverís never really gotten to play this type of part, and if you were ever curious as to what it might be like if Weaver were to play Hannibal Lecter, hereís your chance.

Despite Weaverís performance, (RE)ASSIGNMENT is a depressingly minor effort for Hill, and not one that will go down with his classics despite some interesting ideas. If he had a bigger budget and the resources to stage some solid action beats, we might have had something. This is a low-rent curio at best.




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