The Assignment ★★★½

After a minutes-long exposition dump at the start of (Re)Assignment, Sigourney Weaver’s mad scientist sarcastically sighs, “Well, I’m glad you got that off your chest.” Since this is a Walter Hill film, and since Walter Hill films typically prioritize action and minimize plot, you’d expect the story to taper off from there. Instead, (Re)Assignment triples down on the chitchat, using three narrators to recap its twisted, arguably offensive pulp hallucination, which invokes Hill’s Johnny Handsome as it recounts a hitman’s (Michelle Rodriguez) quest for revenge after receiving involuntary gender reassignment surgery. It’s a daffy plot, not treated for a moment as plausible by Hill, who nonetheless adopts a serious tone in the film. That seriousness is not devoted to the hitman’s quest, but instead to the mad doctor’s rants, which paint (Re)Assignment as an artistic manifesto for Hill himself. The insistence here that what seems like cruel violence is, in fact, misunderstood art undeniably comes across as Hill’s attempt to set the record straight about his auteur status. That he does so within the context of an unapologetically trashy thriller, subverting its morality so audience sympathies lie with the doctor, is so Walter Hill.


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