Switch is a French action thriller starring that lumbering wooden legend of French cinema, Eric Cantona, and it’s awful, but at least it is one of my favourite kinds of awful film: so awful it’s a triumph. If I were ever invited to lecture at film school — remarkably, I have yet to receive such an invite — the first thing I’d say is: girls, boys, although your narrative shouldn’t be predictable, it must add up in terms of what has gone before. Your characters shouldn’t change personalities overnight. Also, it always helps if the plot actually makes sense. This narrative follows no known logic: not internal, not external, and not even the sort of logic that dithers out on the patio and has a smoke while trying to make up its mind. It’s as if the script writer (Jean-Christophe Grangé) looked at logic and thought: ‘Nah, can’t be doing with any of that’, and the director (Frédéric Schoendoerffer) said: ‘A film without any logic? I’m up for that!’ and then they got financed by whom? A logic-hating consortium? I mean, getting a film like this made has to be a triumph, right?
Switch opens with Montreal resident Sophie (Karine Vanasse) going off for lunch with a chance acquaintance she meets at a job interview. Sophie doesn’t have much going for her. She’s a fashion designer with little work. She lives alone and hasn’t got a bloke. The acquaintance suggests she should try out the house-swap website Switch.com. Twenty-four hours later Sophie is on her way to a magnificent apartment in Paris, having swapped house keys with a woman called Bénédicte. Sophie enjoys an idyllic first day, marvelling at her luck, as well as cycling along the Seine, and looking up at the Eiffel Tower, just so we don’t forget where we are, and imagine this is a film set in Lima. But the following morning, it’s not so good.
The following morning she wakes to the French police, led by that lumbering wooden legend of French cinema, Eric Cantona, as Detective Forgeat, hammering down her door. A decapitated body, it turns out, is lying in one of the apartment’s rooms and, as she quickly discovers, she has no way of proving she is not Bénédicte. First off, I would like to know this: how did the police know there was a body there? Second, who was the chance acquaintance who alerted Sophie to Switch.com, a website that now ceases to exist? Third, why don’t the police, you know, just fingerprint her, to confirm her identity? Or contact her family? No idea. Honestly, there are more plot holes in this than you can shake a stick at. In fact, if you were to start shaking a stick at the plot holes in Switch right now, you’d still be shaking sticks three weeks on Wednesday, and have a very tired arm.
Sophie who, until now, has been a sweet, quiet girl, is taken into custody, but escapes Forgeat’s lumberingly wooden clutches to go it alone and prove her innocence, having had a personality transplant, possibly at around 2 a.m. the night before. Sophie is now an utterly different sort of woman; now she can hold knives to people’s throats and shoot guns and jump walls. Who’d have thought it? She runs, as Forgeat chases, in his lumberingly wooden way, as Bénédicte goes about slitting people’s throats, for no reason I could fathom. She also wears a catwoman kind of outfit, for no reason I could fathom, and although you think she’d get stared at in the street, she doesn’t, for no reason I could fathom. Occasionally, the film does address its plot holes, but only by claiming that it’s August and anyone who could identify Sophie is on holiday, including all dentists, who might be able to check dental records. I’m telling you, if you ever find yourself with toothache in Paris at that time of year, you are well stuffed.
This is a film in which even the loose ends have loose ends and they, in turn, have ends which are loose, and the final scene is so risible I actually hooted with laughter. Should you see this film? Of course not. Don’t be daft. On the other hand, it is so bad it is a kind of triumph. I’ll leave it to you.
This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated March 31, 2012