X Change is a classic example of an under-funded, under-written film that could have been great if the people involved would have cared just a bit more. Seriously, a few hundred more grand, some acting lessons, and a little script-doctoring and voila! You got a certified cult classic. It is obvious to anyone watching that first time writer Christopher Pelham tried really, really hard to give us an engaging, thought provoking movie Instead, director Allen Moyle was intent on serving us cliché after cliché, many of which were totally unnecessary (like a construction site blowing up during a car chase). Some of the acting was quite good, some was plain bad. Again, this is probably due to the under-funding, though I noticed that the bulk of the actors in the film happen to hail from Shawinigan, Quebec, just like director Moyle. OK, fine, they aren’t all from Shawinigan, but they are all Canooks. What am I saying? It is clear in my head, but I can’t quite get it out. Much like this movie must have been to Pelham and Moyle.
The premise of X Change is the film’s most notable feature. Let me be clear that X Change is not a one-note production. More like a two and a half-noter. The premise: In the near future, there is a travel company called X Change. They figured out a way to remove a person’s consciousness from their body, and transplant it into somebody else. The nice part is that the other person gets to inhabit and take care of the original body. There are penalties for inhabiting another body and doing drugs or “skydiving”–any sort of high-risk behavior. However, there are cloned bodies, called “Jeffs,” that you can rent if you want to climb a mountain or skydive or fuck without condoms–whatever. The catch is that only “Corpies” are allowed to travel this way. “Corpies” is slang for corporate persons. Something has happened so now that the type of work you do is printed on your ID. You have to be a level 4 “Corpie” to purchase certain items or “float.” Float of course being the act of being in another person’s body.
Like all Sci-fi, there are several catches and gotchas that go along with this new technology. Your mind can only handle transferring bodies three times over a six-day period. If you are inhabiting a Jeff, watch out because Jeffs only have a seven day life-cycle (Blade Runner anyone). The government can track your ID via satelite and they know where you are at all times. The cops are on the side of crooked corporate thieves. The FBI is your friend. Giant Corporations are literally in bed with each other. You get the idea. X Change constructs a world much more technically advanced yet socially juvenile than our own.
So there is this guy named Stuart Toffler, played at various points during the film by Kim Coates, Kyle MacLachlan and Stephen Baldwin. Unlike most “critics,” I do not hate Stephen Baldwin for the simple fact that he delivered one of my most favorite lines of all time, “One, two, three, four, five six, seven. Oswald was a fag.” Baldwin does his family proud in this one. Continuing, this Toffler guy is a “Corpie” who suddenly has to “float” from New York to San Francisco to mitigate at a press conference for this company whose owner suddenly died. Of course he was murdered by the heir-apparent, but what we don’t know is this; the dude who killed the father is the guy inhabiting Toffler’s body! Oh, and his ex-girlfriend, who like him lives in New York, is out in San Francisco. What is even more odd, is the fact that the corporation itself is located in New York. And, the son of the dead guy, as well as the CEO of X Change Corporation, all seem to live in New York. No matter, Toffler’s real New York-centric body is stolen and he is asked by X Change to stay in SF until all is sorted out. Toffler, of course, is not happy in Kyle Maclachlan’s body (more on that in a minute) and he really wants his own back. Only problem is that of course the X Change corporation is really the one behind the murder of kid-Corpie’s father. MacLachlin has to get inside Stephen Baldwin and then outsmart everybody in the entire world so he can get his body back. Sure, why not.
X Change has some gaping plot holes in it, keeping in mind that I have already suspended my disbelief about consciousness swapping in under a minute. First, the whole San Francisco thing makes no sense whatsoever. None. Everything in the movie is located in New York. They all went out to San Francisco just to hold a press conference? I have no idea. Part of the plot is that Toffler has always maintained that he will never “float.” He doesn’t like the technology. The way to actually keep this plot component and not confuse everyone with San Francisco is to have Toffler be on vacation or at a clients somewhere and then his mean boss forces him to “float” back to New York. Also, why not just kick back in Kyle Maclachlin’s body? Talk about a pussy party. Jesus. I mean, Toffler, wearing Maclachlin’s skin, goes to a club and basically could have gotten a freebie from a hooker and then actually succeeds in getting his brains fucked out all within seven minutes. My more mature point is this; how many times in Sci-Fi movies do we see a really cool, even liberating, technology only to have people go back to their old ways within the space of a few scenes? All too often. Run with it man. See where it takes you. Don’t give us gun fights and car crashes and love scenes. Well, maybe the love scenes. Oh, and Mr. Moyle, if I was suddenly placed into a brand new to me body, I would be checking the penis out for a good seven hours before I left the hotel room. Alas…
Getting back to my main problem with X Change, that it really has a good, solid premise, but that they had to couch it in a typical Fugitive style thriller, X Change would have been much more enjoyable if Moyle would have taken the time to ask questions. He still could have had “body theft” in the movie, but he could have had an ugly, sickly, weak man “float” into a healthy, good-looking, strong man’s body and decide to keep it. He could have introduced a plot line where people refused to exit bodies, or refused to exit Jeffs. My point is, there are a hundred different directions X Change could have gone in that didn’t include Toffler sticking his hand in a vat of acid in order to get the key so as to let him and his girlfriend escape out of the temporary warehouse prison the bad guy stuck them in while he went off to blow up a bunch of “Corpies,” but not before said bad guy announced his plans to them menacingly and in exacting detail, etc. X Change, and more specifically, Moyle, tries to be all movies to all people. I mentioned The Fugitive and Blade Runner. But I should also mention David Cronenberg [Ed Note: Moyle worked with Cronenberg on Rabid – 1977], Cimemax late-night (lots and lots of boobs), or any one of ten dozen bad, overwrought bad-guy-wants-to-take-over-the-world movies. X Change is all over the map and it frankly fails at most of the above. Like I said, X Change’s premise, not its plot, is its selling point. Pascale Bussières is pretty hot, too.