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Xchange (2000)

by on 2013/01/21

Xchange (2000)

“What do you think he’s doing with your body right now?”

* * *

The place is New York City. The year is, um, tomorrow. Come to think of it, the place is actually Montreal. Maybe bits of Toronto. And San Francisco too.

Who can tell, after all, and isn’t it appropriate for the tale of transplanting one’s mind into other people’s bodies? Welcome to the world of Xchange, a surprising B-picture despite its terrible packaging, reliance on nudity, and significant, er, personal issues.

But let’s not jump ahead of ourselves, so to speak.

In its broadest strokes, the story involves mistaken identity. Toffler, an East Coast businessman (Kim Coates of 2005’s Assault on Precinct 13) must reach a West Coast meeting in less time than it takes to fly by plane. He consents to have his consciousness teleported to another’s body; the other’s mind in turn takes over his. Unfortunately the “other” is NIA terrorist Fisk (Touch of Pink’s Kyle MacLachlan).

As he’s trapped “floating” in California, Toffler’s Big Apple body goes rogue, so he returns home in a stolen clone (Stephen Baldwin of The Usual Suspects). Also unfortunately, such clones are unstable, with a life span of only two days. He has precious little time to find himself, while evading both good guys and bad.

If Freaky Friday had moderate gore and corporate espionage, or the original Total Recall hadn’t made the trip to Mars, you might have something very like Xchange. For all its science fiction trappings – not to diminish them – it felt more like a mystery thriller from the 1970s. It even plays fair with doling out the clues. (Solve it yourself!)

The plot is complex, yet never unfair, and good at juggling details, without heavy-handed explanations of its technologies’ rules. The dialogue impressed me, and presented an interesting challenge: for multiple actors to play multiple roles, including their takes on each other.

Plus, in my notes I made special mention about how surprised I was at the many parts included for female characters.

And then, one by one, they wound up getting naked in various sex scenes.

Not that there’s anything wrong with it, if that’s what you’re expecting, but I was taken aback given how different the setup seemed. I felt as if midway through Xchange just gave up on being thought-provoking, or suddenly lacked in confidence, and was taking an easy way out . . . especially when the women were already compelling fully clothed, most notably Pascale Bussieres (When Night Is Falling) and Janet Kidder (Ginger Snaps Unleashed).

I’d be disingenuous if I complained any more about nudity, but the narrative had another serious issue. As much as I enjoyed it, by its nature the constant jumping from person to person ensured I never got attached to a particular hero. Surely a production which trades in skin can’t fault my being shallow, unable ever to empathize with Toffler’s mind-as-protagonist.

First, he’s a corporate stooge, so he’s hard to appreciate, a part of the very problem which menaces him. Second, his prime directive remains selfish nearly to the end, whatever the cost may be to anyone else. Third, if he should ultimately succeed, he would leave his body to expire, while his essence is restored into the physical form of the “villain”. (Such an “unhappy” ending would lack even the satisfaction of sacrifice.)

Nobody sticks around long enough for us to get attached, compared to something like North by Northwest, where Cary Grant grows on us. Even if casting could mitigate this sort of thing, however, there are still too few well-known or sympathetic faces here. As for MacLachlan – possible spoiler – he vanishes early on, and doesn’t come back again in any capacity.

So in keeping with the dichotomy of dissociative minds and bodies, I recognize the critical flaws, but still had a lot of fun. Xchange’s sci-fi concepts intrigued me, the writing was good, and the acting as well, sex and other issues notwithstanding. Add in a solid production overall, and you’re left with a decent flick. Just don’t go in expecting a hero to root for.

Or modesty.

* * *

Rated 18A (Canada) / R (United States)

109 minutes

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