TIFF 2016 Review: (re)Assignment21 September 2016 / by Reza Hassanirad (author)
While on stage with stars Sigourney Weaver and Michelle Rodriguez after the world premiere of (re)Assignment, the film’s writer and director Walter Hill, whose long career includes producing the Alien franchise, said that he had worked on the script a couple of decades ago, shelved it and then recently chanced upon a draft in his basement and decided to give it another go.
It would have been best for all involved - the audience as well as the talent assembled on the stage - if he had allowed it to continue collecting dust. (re)Assignment is a forgettable and thoroughly unenjoyable disappointment.
The premise, though, is interesting enough. Frank Kitchen, a male for-hire hitman (played by Rodriquez), is betrayed by his mobster employer to psychopath Dr. Rachel Kay (played by Weaver), whose brother Kitchen murdered. In retaliation, the coldly calculating Kay surgically transforms Kitchen into a woman. When post-surgical Kitchen (still Rodriguez) realizes the transformation is irreversible, the skilled gunslinger launches on a vengeance spree.
It all sounds like good pulpy, B-movie fun - or even neo-noir, Hill’s own classification of the film.
But despite the talent involved it fails to thrill or entertain on any significant level. The visual storytelling is as uninspired as the dialogue is wooden and the low-production value is obvious. None of this adds up to b-movie charm, just disenchantment. Hill tries to accentuate the film’s pulp cred with comic-book-like transitions and animated freeze frames that only end up as frosting on an absent cake.
Mercifully, Weaver’s performance as a steely, amoral, Shakespeare-quoting lunatic provides some enjoyment and genuine laughs on a couple of perfectly delivered lines. Unfortunately, there’s no sustainable chemistry in her dueling with an asylum psychiatrist - played by Tony Shaloub, sans his lovable awkward energy - who’s been tasked with eliciting information about her illicit activities. On occasion their exchanges are engaging and prickly but eventually the energy slouches. Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecter, they ain’t.
Rodriquez’s performance is fairly one-note, with a lot of machismo, sneers and scowls, both as a male and a female. Though the film is hardly a vehicle for Oscar-performance gravitas, the unique premise would have allowed for more creative daring by Rodriguez.
For B-movie fans, this one won’t deliver fun cheese, kinetic violence or frivolous giddiness.
(re)Assignment needs to be assigned to the “do not watch” pile.