The Assignment is Walter Hill’s humorless return to violent pulp: The director of The Warriors and 48 Hrs. fits Sigourney Weaver with a straitjacket. In the opening scenes, it constricts her body, but by the movie’s end, her acting feels just as constricted. As Dr. Rachel Kay, Weaver is grimly determined to take revenge on one Frank Kitchen, a hitman who killed her coked-up, debt-ridden brother.
Michelle Rodriguez (Girlfight) plays that hitman, at first, in implausible drag. Her beard is a scraggly nest of amputated spiders’ legs. Her voice is badly dubbed (and/or digitally altered) in a lower register, and her prosthetic phallus is porn-star sized. When Dr. Kay — a sex-reassignment surgeon — catches up with Frank, that enormous dick is not long for this world. Unfortunately for Hill and company, Pedro Almodóvar has already made this film. Infinitely more nuanced and affecting, The Skin I Live In is a gothic melodrama that unwraps its anguish slowly like the bandages of Dr. Ledgard’s (Antonio Banderas) similarly damaged patient. If only Dr. Kay had unleashed some of that doctor’s aching self-torment.
Under Hill’s direction, Weaver doesn’t seem to enjoy a moment of her sociopathy. But she’s not the only one. Everyone gets a walloping here, if not a bullet to the head, in this grimy attempt at film noir.
Opens Friday at the Presidio Theater.