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Canuxploitation!

XChange

2000, Starring Stephen Baldwin, Pascale Bussires, Kim Coates, Kyle MacLachlan. Directed by Allan Moyle.





Allan Moyle is one of the Canadian film industry's most peculiar characters, having worked in everything including low budget horror, science fiction, stoic Canadian drama, exploitation and blockbusters. Starting out in Montreal with sleazy urban crime films, Moyle enjoyed a brief flirtation with Hollywood in the 1980s (Pump up the Volume). After falling victim to a sophomore jinx that plagued him for almost a decade, Moyle returned to Canada to work on a large variety of films from Red Blooded American Girl to New Waterford Girl. One of his more recent efforts is Xchange, a science fiction thriller which boasts the participation of a young Stephen Baldwin.

Xchange begins with a Matrix-"inspired" bullet time assassination. The CEO of Kersch-Gephardt Consulting is struck in the chest by a small homing "seeker missile," writhes in exaggerated pain and falls. Then it's off to New York to meet Stuart (Kim Coates), who arrives at Kersch-Gephardt for a full workday of not-too-distant-future fun. Called into the boss' office, Stuart finds his boss working out on a treadmill, while a trainer sits behind the big oak desk. Muscles explains that he is actually the bosshe has just "exchanged bodies" with the trainer, so that the trainer can work his body out for him. Funny? Not particularly, but it is a clever way to introduce the concept of "xchanging."

Stuart has to be in San Francisco in a few hours to attend a press conference in which Quayle Scott (Charles Powell), the assassinated CEO's son, will announce he is taking over KGC. To get there in time, Stuart has to go to Xchange's head office and switch bodies with someone on the other side of the country. Although instantaneous executive travel is Xchange's main moneymaking scheme for the fledgling technology, Stuart has never used it before and is worried about what switching bodies might feel like.

When Stuart wakes up in his new San Francisco body, he looks in the mirror and sees someone else looking back: Fisk (Kyle MacLachlan), the corporate assassin from the beginning of the film meaning that Fisk now has Stuart's body. After the meeting, he returns to Xchange to learn that his body has gone missingand even worse, that the body he's in was also stolen by Fisk, and its original owner wants it back! Stuart is told he will be placed in a "Jeff," a genetically-enhanced clone body that only lasts a week, until his body can be found. Not exactly thrilled with Xchange's customer service, he escapes from a couple of dim-witted orderlies and xchanges into a different Jeff (Stephen Baldwin), allowing him to simply walk out.

Convinced he has stumbled on some kind of conspiracy, Stuart outfits himself with a high-tech "executive" personal weaponry kit containing a bulletproof vest, a pouch to hide his identity card from electronic tracking, pepper spray and a "protonic monofilament," a single strand of molecules that can slice through anything, qualifying this film as science fiction (as in "let's make up some science!"). Convinced he's on his own against an evil Xchange plot, Stuart high tails it back to his New York apartment to figure out how to get his body back from Fisk.

But Fisk, who has been busy shooting cops and figuratively curling the ends of his thin black mustache, knows all about Stuart's whereabouts. He sends a couple phony cops around, but Stuart uses his new toys to do away with them. Stuart slowly realizes that Fisk is in cahoots with Quayle Scott, and it all has to do with a potential merger with Xchange. He breaks into Scott's office, and his theory is confirmed when he sees Fisk, in his own body, step in the room with a gun.

With all this talk about body switching and corporate terrorism, Xchange occasionally resembles a bigger budget remake of one of the absolute worst Canadian films ever made, the wretched PBS co-production Overdrawn at the Memory Bank. In that film, Raul Julia is taken to NoviCorp, which transfers his mind into a computer-simulated baboon. When his body is misplaced, his mind is temporarily housed in a computer where he starts transferring the contents of corporate bank accounts to the lowly NoviCorp broom pushers.

Instead of trying to surpass the intellectual high bar on classism set by Overdrawn, Xchange's portrayal of huge division between "corpies" like Suart and Quayle and the teeming masses, which has apparently led to corporate terrorism. What could've been an interesting plot here is dealt with very superficially, as the class gap is only served to give rise to Fisk, an assassin in league with big business, not against it.

Canadian sci-fi is notorious for bad production values films like Quarantine, and Laserhawk make good cases against any future ventures in the genre as a whole. Besides one conspicuous "future car," Xchange more or less forgets to show off anything in the background that might convince the audience that this film does take place in the future. And yet somehow it remains one of the better looking Canadian sci-fi films ever made, mostly because the quality of the locations is convincing enough.

In an attempt to mold itself as a "hip" Face/Off or Matrix-style straight-to-video thriller, Xchange offers up mindless action and a surprising amount of nudity. If you can accept the fact that it is a cheaper knock-off, Allan Moyle's Xchange does work on this level, as a popcorn muncher. Check it out as a second feature to the similar, but much better, Cube.


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