Imagine, if you will, an alternative universe where Tommy Lee Jones is a French ex-footballer and Harrison Ford is a cute blonde girl. Sounds oddly appealing, doesn’t it? It would certainly cast Star Wars in a new light anyway…
Just don’t think too much
Young Canadian designer Sophie is in a bit of a slump. With no job and no man to tie her down, she decides to try her luck on a holiday via a home exchange website. On waking up after her first night in Paris, she finds herself arrested for murder, with the police thinking she is the woman she swapped homes with. Since nobody believes her story, Sophie has no choice but to escape custody and try to clear her name herself. It’s up to maverick Detective Forgeat to track her down, but is he just trying to catch her or is he starting to believe her?
Professional sportsmen used to have only three possible career paths once they were out of the game. It was either be a coach, a pundit or buy a bar until trailblazers like Dick Butkus, Bubba Smith, Vinnie Jones and Pelé opened up a fourth avenue: thespian. Since his retirement from Manchester United back in 1997, Eric Cantona has been quietly building a fairly decent reputation in his native France, both on stage and screen. In Switch, he gets to be compared not unfavourably with one Tommy Lee Jones as the cop on the trail of the escaped murder suspect in this Hitchcock-meets-The Fugitive slice of enjoyable bonkersness. Yes, it’s a word.
His portrayal of Detective Forgeat is one of subtle intelligence and stoicism that is considerably free of ego. He’s smoking in just about every shot (well, it is a French movie) and has the beginning of a pot belly but still has enough in the tank to give Sophie a hard time in a foot chase through the Parisian suburbs – the most exciting of the film’s low-key action scenes.
The impossibly cute Karine Vanasse is Sophie, our heroine, dropped into the mistaken identity conspiracy on her transatlantic vacation. Since a huge chunk of the running time is her on her own, often without dialogue, the film rests entirely on her slender shoulders. She does the job admirably, committing completely to the increasingly ludicrous developments of the story and holding on to the viewer’s sympathies throughout. It helps that no matter what turns the plot takes, her abilities and her actions remain generally believable. She’s intelligent and resourceful but also scared shitless, and doesn’t do anything that any reasonably fit person wouldn’t be able to do. The rest of the cast are decent enough in fairly generic roles, although Sophie Faucher has some fun with her one scene as Sophie’s shotgun-toting mother.
Director Frédéric Schoendoerffer understands how to shoot police stories after his work on Braquo (the acclaimed French series often compared to The Shield) and keeps that side of things grounded and believable during the first half, but once the investigation gets going the story just gets more and more preposterous. The original script from novelist Jean-Christophe Grangé and Schoendoerffer remains enjoyably watchable though, no matter what wacky direction the story takes.
What is a real disappointment however is Anchor Bay’s DVD. Bare bones doesn’t even seem to cover it. This is the type of release that would list Interactive Menu under special features just to have something to put there. You get a trailer, that’s it. Shameful. (I just checked the Blu-Ray on Amazon to see what it came with. The features were listed as Anamorphic Widescreen, Interactive Menu, Scene Access. It must be 1999 again. Sometimes I scare myself.)