Tuesday 27 March 2012

On the move: "Switch"

The super-slick opening twenty minutes of the French-language thriller Switch describe the circumstances whereby a meek freelance illustrator (Karine Vanasse) swaps her hand-to-mouth existence in Montreal for a month's vacation in Paris, via a website allowing young professionals to switch apartments in major cities. Naturally, the apartment (stylish, spacious, with a close-up view of le tour Eiffel) and Paris (photographed at its sunniest and airiest) prove too good to be true, as our heroine discovers one morning when she wakes up feeling the worse for wear, with the local constabulary - led by detective Eric Cantona - bashing down her front door, on account of the decapitated corpse laid out on the bed in the guest room. There follows one of those vaguely Hitchcocky identity-theft plots, updated to a racially mixed milieu where a gal might run into an Iranian or Malian in her foremost hour of need.

Whether or not it ultimately makes sense is almost a moot point; the director, Frédéric Schœndœrffer (who's done episodes of the cop drama Braquo), does a decent job in keeping all the parts moving, whether charting Vanasse's credibility-pushing transformation from put-upon patsy to guntoting freedom fighter, or sending a typically no-nonsense Cantona barrelling after her - literally so during one foot pursuit through a housing estate in which the camera is strapped to the actor's chest, offering the viewer the peculiar sensation of watching ze seagull following ze trailer in double-quick time. The latter set-piece, with its run-into-traffic pay-off, is where the film finally reveals its considerable debt to Guillaume Canet's Tell No One; if Switch isn't quite as classy, it holds up surprisingly well, only hitting the wall once the Prince and the Pauper plot has to be explained (over cigarettes, natch) in advance of the blunt, rushed-through steel foundry finale. Silly, but sorta effective.

Switch opens in selected cinemas from Friday.

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