Writer: Elaine EweWriter Ratings:Overall: Cast: Plot: Effects: Cinematography: Watch this if you liked:
Andy Lau and Lin Chi-ling
Words cannot even begin to describe how bad "Switch" is. Billed as Asia's answer to James Bond or Ethan Hunt, director Jay Sun clearly has zero understanding of what makes those franchises work, or rather, what makes films work. If anything, "Switch" teaches us that anything in excess is not a good thing and that Asia should leave Bond films and "Mission: Impossible" films alone.
The film tells the story of a famous Chinese Yuan Dynasty painting known as "Dwelling in Fuchun Mountains" that is insured for an amount somewhere in the billions, which leads to every greedy businessman scheming to steal it just so they can sell it to the highest bidder. When it is eventually stolen, it is up to special agent Xiao Jinhan (Andy Lau) and his wife (Zhang Jingchu), who, unbeknownst to her, her husband is also tasked with recovering the painting. Misunderstandings ensue, all of which could have been avoided if their respective agencies could get their shit, for the lack of a better term, together. Considering the sophisticated technology that Andy Lau has access to, why can't the mysterious agency he is working for use them to communicate with the museum that houses the painting, but no, and the museum even had the gall to forgo the cutting-edge security system and transport the painting out of the blue, getting it stolen easily.
Like "Cold War", the title "Switch" comes from the name of the operation that Xiao Jinhan is ordered to initiate in order to retrieve the missing halves of the paintings. However, for the first half of the film, Jinhan's mysterious commander, known only as F, makes him run all over the place to retrieve the stolen halves of the painting, but forbids him to execute the "Switch" operation. This makes for a very bewildering and pointless viewing experience that was half an hour too long. What "Switch" has, in bulk, is a bevy of ladies in skimpy clothing, actors speaking sentences in kindergarten English, product placements, cheesy dialogue and horrendous CGI.
Director Jay Sun also takes it much too literally by switching scenes and settings every 5 to 10 minutes, accomplished by using fade-to-blacks. It is very jarring to see the villain lounging in his opulent lair furnished by nothing except scantily-clad ladies in one minute, then fade to black and the next scene depicts the painting being stolen by a villain, but they are not batting for the same team. It is even more upsetting to watch Andy Lau rush from one place to another for no reason other than to showcase the exotic locations that the film was shot in, but almost all the 'exotic' places are CGI, save for the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, so again, we have to ask ourselves: what was the point?
To make things worse, lead actresses Zhang Jingchu and Lin Chi-ling are almost indistinguishable at first glance in the film, until someone calls them out by their name or until more plot development happens, which makes for a confusing watch. Jinhan is also no help in identifying the women since he treats the two women the same way. This has a bearing on the plot because the two women love him, and he them, as evidenced in the scene where Zhang Jingchu asks her husband, "If we didn't have a son, would you still choose me?" To be fair, any film with a romantic subplot is bound to veer into familiar territory, but the two female leads are not compelling enough for us to root for either one of them. For example, we are expected to believe that Lin Chi-ling's character is in love with Andy Lau's character despite the fact that they never had a romantic history together and he has never done anything for her in the present other than flirt.
Tong Dawei, who plays the film's main villain, resembles a cartoon character. Not only they had him donning a white wig, he is also portrayed as a ruthless Japanese man, resulting in most of his scenes being dubbed. Like a cartoon character, he does nothing much except snarl and threaten the people who get in his way and sitting menacingly upright surrounded by his female assassins.
"Switch" had the opportunity of being the film that establishes Andy Lau as the handsome, suave and charismatic action hero that Asians have been waiting for (Jackie Chan is definitely not handsome and Tony Leung almost never stars in light-hearted action films). Instead, Jay Sun has made the Asian-equivalent of "Battlefield Earth". It is baffling why a superstar like Andy Lau would even consent to appear in this film unless they had blackmail-worthy material on him or the actor has more money than he can spend. Bad plot, bad acting, bad characterisation, bad visuals and bad audio, "Switch" is the one film that you should stay away from.Cinema Online, 14 June 2013