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The Assignment

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THE ASSIGNMENT Aidan Quinn, Donald Sutherland, Ben Kingsley (1997, Columbia TriStar, R, $83.99) Inspired hokum: the kind of gleefully tacky espionage thriller that seems unforgivably derivative and cornball at first-run ticket prices but is somehow compulsively watchable on the small screen. Quinn plays Annibal Ramirez, a naval officer who Jackal; Sutherland is the morally iffy CIA man who coerces Ramirez into impersonating Carlos; Kingsley adds yet another ethnicity to his impressive roster as an Israeli operative who happens to look exactly like real-life terrorist Carlos the wants Carlos dead. Utterly ridiculous on every level but played with such conviction that it’s impossible to sneer at — if only the average Hollywood thriller were this entertainingly dumb. B