Having seen Eric Cantona in Ken Loach’s brilliant Looking For Eric (2009), I was intrigued by his latest acting endeavour in French thriller Switch. Firstly, don’t be fooled by the British artwork for this film, which shows Cantona wielding a gun in an action hero stance with an exploding car and a helicopter in the background. These elements are in fact rather minor within the film, I actually have no recollection of a car exploding at all, and Switch is by no means an action packed Cantona vehicle as this misleading marketing would like you to believe. The star of the film is in fact Karine Vanesse who plays unemployed illustrator Sophie Malaterre and Switch is far more of a psychological thriller than anything else.
Main protagonist Sophie is fed up with life, with no job, friends or boyfriend her summer looks bleak. When an acquaintance mentions a holiday house swapping website, Switch.com, Sophie realises she can do anything and jumps at the chance to house swap with someone in Paris. She arrives in Paris, the apartment is beautiful, with a view of the Eiffel Tower and the sun shining. Things are looking up. But soon she realises things are not as they seem when a murdered man is found in the apartment and Sophie is suspected of the crime. Detective Forgeat (Cantona) must get to the bottom of the mystery, is Sophie who she says she is, or is she Bénédicte Serteaux, the owner of the apartment who the police believe her to be?
The premise is rather run of the mill but to the film’s credit, it pays attention to the small details ensuring everything is believable and relatively realistic. Sophie is a smart protagonist who refreshingly stays one step ahead and outruns and outsmarts the cop. Karine Vanesse, recently seen in retro television series Pan Am, is brilliant as the young woman stuck in an incredibly horrible situation and when things get worse we really empathise with her because of this believable portrayal. Cantona is suitably cast as the detective of few words but other than his name he brings little to the film. After the initial setting up of the story, the film gathers momentum and becomes a lively thriller which requires solid attention from its audience to follow where it goes.
Things do get a little confusing towards the end of the film and the plot is by no means free of holes and it does become rather convoluted, but if you are in the mood for a generic thriller, Switch will satisfy. The whole film hinges on the central notion of the true identity of the protagonist and even when that is revealed, there is enough to keep the viewer intrigued as to the outcome of the film. There are plenty of tense moments too; one particularly long chase sequence is livened up with techniques such as the use of a SnorriCam a la Harvey Keitel in Mean Streets (1973).
Switch is not a remarkable or overly memorable film but if you view it with fairly low expectations you may be pleasantly surprised. There are a few nice twists and if you gloss over some of the more ludicrous aspects it makes for a pretty suspenseful thriller.
Overall Switch is a surprisingly enjoyable genre piece that is not very predictable and will draw you in. Vanesse’s performance is strong and this holds the film together but it may not be enough to hold everyone’s attention.
Switch is out on DVD and Blu-ray on 2nd April 2012.
Director: Frédéric Schoendoerffer
Writers: Jean-Christophe Grangé, and Frédéric Schoendoerffer
Stars: Eric Cantona and Karine Vanasse
Runtime: 99 mins