The director and star of a controversial film about a male hitman who is unwillingly put through gender reassignment surgery defended the project as it had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival this week.
The festival’s official website calls (re)Assignment a “jaw-droppingly audacious revenge thriller” that “confronts the gender binary on which so much genre cinema is based.”
(re)Assignment, which stars Michelle Rodriguez as an assassin named Frank Kitchen, is double crossed by gangsters and falls into the hands of a surgeon known as The Doctor who then turns him into a woman.
The premise drew criticism from some in the transgender community, who said the medical procedure should not be used as a sensationalistic plot device. It was also called transphobic and exploitative by Twitter users.
Rodriguez, who starred in the Fast and the Furious series, took issue with criticism, asking: “Are they mad that somebody decided to take their branded transgender operation and use it on heterosexual people?”
She also noted the film was a “B-movie noir genre comic book take on something” and that she herself was part of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community.
“I’m bisexual. I do guys. I do girls. You can’t really argue with me because I’m you. So if I do a movie, I’d never do a movie with the intention of offending anybody in the LGBT community because I’m a part of it,” she said.
Director Walter Hill was quick to defend his film: “I don’t know why this one stirred up such interest in a way that those didn’t except that I think the transgender situation has been more in the headlines the last couple of years.
“I don’t know. I’m a storyteller, it’s a crime story, it’s a noir vision, it’s comic book in a way and quite a few women have said to me that after seeing the movie, they feel empowered by it.”
Sigourney Weaver, who plays the deranged doctor, said “certainly no-one is demeaned or denigrated”, adding: “It’s not a Disney movie. It is noir.”
Transgender activist Elizabeth Marie Rivera has called for a boycott of the film, and has taken to Instagram writing that it contains “a f*cked up and twisted ‘transgender’ trope that is being forced down our throat.”
It is not known yet whether (re)Assignment will receive a UK release.