Frank Kitchen is an assassin who has done bad things. But when he takes out the brother of Dr. Rachel Jane (Sigourney Weaver), a megalomaniac in her own right, Kitchen becomes Jane’s target. Jane has Kitchen captured by Honest John (a brief cameo by Anthony LaPaglia), so that Jane can operate on Kitchen, turning him into… a her.
Michelle Rodriguez plays Kitchen with and without a beard, as a tough-talking, hard-hitting rough guy, in a movie that might be otherwise forgettable if not for the gender-bending Face/Off switch. Walter Hill apparently fell in love with the idea when he first read the script, adapted it years later into a graphic novel, and finally found the finances (from Said Ben Said) to use Denis Hamill’s story this way.
The film does have some things to say about literature, loving people for who they are not what they look like (or what gender they are). We get some repressed sexuality hyper evaluation of Jane (notice the double feminine names in her name, even though Sigourney plays her rather masculinely) thanks to interviews with Tony Shalhoub’s Monk-like Dr. Ralph Galen. We see the way that Kitchen struggles to grip his/her feelings for Caitlin Gerard’s Johnnie (notice the twisty name, again).
But in the end, this is ultimately a fetish-y revenge flick like Oldboy without quite as much of a kick at the end. It’s told backwards/forwards, with graphic novel-esque overlays, attempting to keep the audience a little off kilter. It’s got its moments but ultimately leaves us realizing it’s not the B-level Hill aimed for, but more like a Syfy/TNT film with bigger names that didn’t quite pan out.