If the basic premise of this one sounds familiar, you’ve probably read Robert Sheckley.
For those of you who have never encountered him, Sheckley was one of the greatest science fiction short story writers of the Fifties and Sixties, and continued writing books well into the Millenium. He was a brilliant and wildly inventive satirist and humorist, and a handful of his stories were adapted for the screen: The Tenth Victim, The Prize of Peril, Freejack, a couple of thrillers, and, strangely enough, Disney’s Condorman (no, I’m not joking. Read the book instead).
One of his strangest notions (in a career full of strange notions) appeared in his novel Mindwarp: travel by the simple expedient of transferring your consciousness into the body of a willing traveler making the trip in the opposite direction.
Only something goes very wrong and the hero’s body gets misplaced.
It’s an intriguing idea. In fact, according to IMDB, a movie adaptation of the novel has been announced (not that it looks like it’s going anywhere).
So it isn’t too hard to understand why someone would ummm…”borrow” the central idea from the book for a low budget science fiction thriller.
Mind you, unlike the original, we are not talking about crossing the galaxy by Mindwarp, just hopping from one end of the country — or the world — to the other.
And, rather than a cosmic screw up, in Xchange, corporate executive Stuart Toffler discovers that his missing body has been taken by a notorious terrorist by the name of Fisk.
Stuart has never liked the idea of “Floating” (as the Xchange process has been dubbed by those who use it all the time), but his company sends him to the funeral of the CEO of a company which has ties to his company — and who was assassinated by Fisk.
Unfortunately, for the first time in Xchange’s history, a customer did not show up when he was supposed to, and Stuart Toffler doesn’t like the fact that they want him to wait around in a clone body (or “GEF”: Genetically Engineered Facsimile) while they try to sort things out. After all, Fisk also stole the body Stuart has been using, and he can’t stay in it any longer.
Stuart does not like the idea of sitting around in a GEF until its time limit runs out and he dies, so he secretly transfers himself into a GEF and flies back to New York to sort things out.
But he only has Fifty-four hours to do it in.
Now, obviously, a low budget science fiction thriller wasn’t about to indulge in anything like the absurd psychedelic comedy of Sheckley’s novel, so instead we get a fairly standard sort of thriller. There are only minimal attempts at dressing up the modern world to look like the future (okay, I’ll admit it: I laughed when they introduced a Campagna T-Rex as the car of the future in one shot, although in 2001, not too many people outside Quebec had ever seen one), although the story does appear to be taking place not too far into the future. There are a few interesting gimmicks here and there, including that lethal mono-molecular wire which shows up in William Gibson’s short story, Johnny Mnemonic.
But if this thing is only set a decade or two in the future, then we sure made a lot of progress on cloning and mindswapping in a very short time.
It’s also interesting to note that Stuart is played by three different actors: when we first meet him, he’s Canadian actor Kim Coates (who then plays Fisk for most of the film); the GEF body he uses later is played by Stephen Baldwin; and when he first floats across the country, he ends up as Kyle MacLachlan, during one of the quieter moments in his career.
The other notable thing here is that there are a lot of bare breasts on display, with at least four women shaking them at us at one point or another, not to mention several sex scenes and a lot of nudity. I’m not clear about where Xchange’s first debuted: supposedly Trimark did a theatrical release, but it apparently ran on cable in the U.S. the same year.
And we all know that made for cable movies always had extra nudity.
Sadly, even with one of his ideas at the core of the story, Xchange is not up to Robert Sheckley’s standard. But then, you really don’t expect that in a sci fi action thriller made in the Nothings for cable TV.
It is moderately entertaining, even though it largely forgets its speculative elements in its second half in favor of a routine thriller plot. Although, once again that comes with the territory.
But if all you want is a bit of action with a few interesting ideas thrown in as the frosting on the cake, then you should enjoy this one.
It should have been more, though.
Oh, well. That happens…