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Xchange (June 9/02)

Though it's got a fairly interesting science fiction premise, Xchange abandons it in favor of routine action sequences - probably in an attempt to compete with all those Ice-T movies crowding the straight-to-video marketplace.

Set in the not-too-distant future (a future in which John Cusack's High Fidelity and that terrible teen movie Here On Earth are apparently undergoing a revival of sorts; both can be glimpsed on a theater marquee), a monolithic corporation known as Xchange has invented a device allowing two people to temporarily swap consciousness, thus inhabiting each others body.

As the movie opens, a New York businessman named Toffler (played by Canadian actor Kim Coates) needs to be in San Francisco that same day, so despite his reservations, he agrees to use the Xchange method. He soon finds himself in the City by the Bay, inhabiting someone else's body (Kyle MacLachlan for the time being). After doing a little business, he decides to relax and finds himself enjoying a night of nameless sex with a stranger (who also just happens to be "floating," the slang term for Xchange).

But everything starts to go wrong the following day, when he returns to the Xchange offices for his trip back home and into his own body. It turns out that he swapped consciousness with a known criminal named Fisk, and MacLachlan's body actually belongs to someone else. Xchange proposes to put Toffler into a clone until his own body can be found, but clones only last around seven days and tend to look shockingly like Stephen Baldwin. Anyway, needless to say, Toffler does eventually wind up in the body of a Baldwin clone (he is on the cover, after all), and along with the help of a plucky reporter named Ranard (in the future, people can apparently only have weird names like Toffler and Ranard), Toffler attempts to get his body back.

Xchange features a premise that would be right at home on an episode of The Outer Limits, but the movie's conflicted about what it wants to be. Is it a sci-fi thriller? Or is it a futuristic action movie? It never does pick, so it winds up becoming an uneasy mix of the two. And truthfully, the first half hour of the film (featuring the introduction to Xchange and this society in general), is far more entertaining than anything that follows. The whole concept of traveling via Xchange is very intriguing, and the initial look at how it works and the way it's been integrated into society is almost fascinating. Example: The first time we see it in us, a lazy businessman has switched consciousness' with his personal trainer (this way, he gets a nice workout but doesn't actually have to do anything). That stuff was cool; the silly terrorist subplot that becomes the focus later on could have easily existed in a run-of-the-mill Eric Roberts suckfest.

But to be fair, the action stuff that winds up dominating the film is well done and semi-exciting. Had it been a part of any other movie, it'd have been a welcome addition. But here, after a decent sci-fi premise, it comes off as a lazy way out for the screenwriter.

out of

© David Nusair