Walter HillCanada / France / USA95 minutes2016ColourEnglish
This jaw-droppingly audacious revenge thriller from the great Walter Hill (The Warriors, 48 Hours) stars Michelle Rodriguez as a lowlife killer put through full male-to-female gender reassignment surgery by a score-settling surgeon (Sigourney Weaver).
"Every film I've done has been a western," Walter Hill once famously said. Okay, auteurists, parse this.
The man who directed The Warriors and The Long Riders, who wrote Sam Peckinpah's The Getaway, who left his mark on Michael Mann, John Woo, and Quentin Tarantino, has just flipped the script. Radically. Strip away the differing narratives, the varied casts, and the fluctuating budgets of Hill's films over the past 40 years, and his core concern has always been a man's honour in a violent place. Not this time. This time, Hill's concern is a man's place when he's living in a woman's body.
The jaw drops once the outrageous audacity of (Re)Assignment's premise sinks in. The doctor (Sigourney Weaver) is a brilliant but unhinged cosmetic surgeon, first seen straitjacketed in an interrogation room. Calmly, and not without pride, she recounts to her psychiatrist (Tony Shalhoub) how she got there. A lowlife killer named Frank Kitchen killed her brother, so she took her ultimate revenge. She captured him and conducted full gender-reassignment surgery. Now Frank (Michelle Rodriguez) is forced to face the world as a woman. Confused, pissed off, and as macho as ever, she's out for her own vengeance.
Shot with seemingly effortless style, and making use of a graphic-novel framing device, (Re)Assignment embraces its genre origins. Frank knows her way around a gunfight, and Hill revels in the satisfying precision of her executions. And yet, in the doctor's cerebral pronouncements on identity and in Frank's post-surgery evolution, Hill confronts the gender binary on which so much genre cinema is based. As the story propels Frank toward her inevitable showdown with her nemesis and maker, it becomes ever clearer that this is a Walter Hill movie for our times. And a western, probably.