Quebecoise designer Sophie (Pan Am’s Karine Vanasse) is in a bit of a rut.
Quebecoise designer Sophie
(Pan Am’s Karine Vanasse) is in a bit of a rut. No job, no boyfriend, no prospects of either, a change of
scenery might be just what she needs.
When a chance acquaintance suggests she join a flat-swapping website and
take a well-deserved holiday, Sophie, who obviously has never seen any examples
of this kind of woman-in-peril film before, signs up right away and before long
is swapping her Montreal bungalow for a gorgeous Paris apartment just a
carelessly tossed Gitanes away from the Eiffel Tower.
But after just a day in the City of Lights, Sophie wakes up to the cops
kicking in her door and a mutilated, decapitated corpse in the spare room. She’s been set up and framed by evil genius
psychopath Benedicte (Karina Testa)
who has stolen her identity and embarked on an international killing spree. Unable to convince gruff but
sympathetic cop Inspector Forgeat (ex-Manchester United veteran Eric Cantona) of either her identity or
her innocence, Sophie makes a desperate bid for freedom, escaping with
Forgeat’s gun and dignity, leaving him chained in his own handcuffs. On the run, hunted by every cop in
Paris and with Forgeat only ever one step behind her, Sophie sets out to prove
her innocence and catch the real killer.
A tense, if at times
ludicrous variation, on the kind of glossy stolen identity thrillers where Liam Neeson gets to beat up foreigners,
Switch, co-written by director Frédéric Schoendoerffer and The Crimson Rivers author Jean-Christophe Grangé, is enjoyable,
if undemanding, fun which plays like a demented cross between The Fugitive and The Holiday. And let’s
be honest, how much better would The Holiday have been if Kate Winslett had severed Jack
Black’s empty head and mailed it to Canada? Any answer but “Tons better” is the wrong answer.
It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense and the eventual motive behind what
is quite a dastardly and no doubt expensive international conspiracy is a bit Midsomer Murders but Schoendoerffer who previously directed
the slick Secret Agents, the
uber-violent Paris Lockdown and episodes
of the fantastic Braquo (a TV cop
show that drags The Wire up an alley
and sodomises it with a police baton), keeps the pot boiling, never allowing
you time to pick too many holes in the plot. Like just why does Benedicte take that severed head to
Canada with her? And surely, in
our security conscious times, even though she stuck it in the cargo hold,
someone at some point would X-ray the luggage and think “Hmmm…That looks
awfully like a severed head. Maybe
I should, like, call someone?”
The action is as slick and tense as you’d expect though with a Point Break-inspired foot-chase a
particular highlight as Forgeat pursues the desperate Sophie through a Paris
suburb and the fight scenes are fast, brutal and bruising without ever
straining credibility too much.
While the excellent Karina Testa, who made such an impact in the
brilliant Frontier(s), is criminally
wasted in the underwritten role of the two-dimensional psychotic Benedicte, Cantona
is suitably gruff and under-stated as the gruff cop on the heroine’s trail who
moves from antagonist to ally as he becomes convinced of
her innocence. It’s hard to
imagine under similar circumstances any of the UK’s current crop of over-paid,
pampered ball-kickers delivering such an understated, sympathetic
performance. With their drinking,
drugging and whoring, most have more in common with Ferrara’s Bad Lieutenant. Though Wayne Rooney could probably make a decent fist of The Simpsons’ Chief Wiggum.
Vanasse is incredible though, delivering an intelligent, gutsy,
convincingly desperate performance as the ordinary young woman thrust into a
nightmare and forced to rely only on herself. She’s a likeable, independent heroine who neither flaps
around waiting to be saved or is a buffed-up action hero-caricature and it’s
refreshing to see a female protagonist who’s both vulnerable and resourceful. Though just why her constant response
to imminent danger seems to involve showering is a little baffling and feels
like a cynical excuse to show a bit of tit. Wet, naked breasts are a wonderful thing and immeasurably
improve most films. And Vanasse does
have lovely breasts that are only improved by a light dappling of moisture from
the shower. However, by the third
time she gets those puppies out, no matter how sweaty she might feel after
being on the lam from le flics, it is
starting to feel a little gratuitous.
Despite a ropey and hysterical denouement involving the revelation of
decades-old secrets and some rather unnecessary and unpleasant leg breaking, Switch is a decent, unpretentious
little thriller with a heroine who you actually care about.