A vengeful doctor (played by Sigourney Weaver) turns a hit man (Michelle Rodriguez) into a woman in this thriller from filmmaker Walter Hill. Rating: 2 stars out of 4.
In the dictionary, next to the word “hauteur,” there ought to be a picture of Sigourney Weaver.
Haughtiness is an attitude and characteristic she’s cultivated in pictures such as “Working Girl” and “The Ice Storm,” and there certainly are elements of it in her breakout role, Ellen Ripley of the “Alien” movies.
It’s on full display in “The Assignment.” In fact, her character, Dr. Rachel Kay, is the distilled essence of the term: filled with a sense of her own superiority, disdainful of everyone around her — “none of you are worth my time,” she pronounces at one point — and does nothing to hide it.
Movie Review ★★
‘The Assignment,’ with Michelle Rodriguez, Sigourney Weaver, Tony Shalhoub. Directed by Walter Hill, from a screenplay by Hill and Denis Hamill. 95 minutes. Rated R for graphic nudity, violence, sexuality, language and drug use. Several theaters.
The character, introduced in a straitjacket at a psychiatric hospital, is a world-class plastic surgeon who uses her formidable skills in a twisted act of vengeance, transforming a male assassin into a woman. The hit man, Frank Kitchen, killed the doctor’s brother. The gender reassignment — carried out after the killer is beaten, kidnapped and drugged — is Kay’s payback for that deed.
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“I’ve liberated you from the macho prison you’ve been living in,” the doctor tells her victim. “This is your opportunity for redemption.”
Cast as the killer, Michelle Rodriguez has the flashier role, with director/co-writer Walter Hill incorporating plenty of nudity in her portrayal (emphasizing the thoroughness of the transformation) and plenty of gunplay. Enraged, Kitchen kills his way up a food chain of heavies involved in the conspiracy orchestrated by the doctor to capture and reconfigure him into a her.
This is perhaps the angriest movie Hill — longtime specialist in tough-guy fare such as “The Driver,” “Last Man Standing,” “Red Heat” and “Bullet to the Head” — has ever made. There’s rage in Kitchen, manifesting itself in all that killing. But the more interesting manifestation of rage is to be found in the doctor. The iciness of it, brought forth in Weaver’s performance, is soul chilling. She never raises her voice and never alters the look of pitiless regard in her eyes.
Weaver’s Kay is a fanatic. Explaining herself to an interrogator (Tony Shalhoub) in the psychiatric hospital where she’s imprisoned after her surgical crime, she’s wholly unrepentant and wholly haughty.