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The Swindle


The Swindle

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The con-job movie doesn't have to make sense to be sound, as long as the audience feels fooled by the twists and turns. But any cinematic grift runs the risk of being either too simple or too complex; unless a film falls in the nebulous window in between, it can leave viewers unengaged or too confused to care. The Swindle, the 50th feature from famed French director Claude Chabrol (La Ceremonie), falls on the simple side of things as far as stings go, so it's best not to get caught up in the devices of chicanery. The twists and turns of the two stars, however, make up for the lack of real surprises: Chabrol regulars Isabelle Huppert and Michel Serrault play mid-level grifters who roam around Europe in a camper van, preying on naïve businessmen and convention-goers. Eventually, Huppert involves her partner in a scheme more complicated than they're accustomed to, though the payoff (five million Swiss francs) makes the risks worthwhile. While the con itself is too linear to be exciting, the interplay between Huppert and Serrault—a series of personality shifts that (maybe) turn the two from friends to lovers to competitors to adversaries and back again—is priceless. Much lighter than many of Chabrol's works, The Swindle finds its place in his oeuvre by making sly references to his past movies: For instance, at one point Huppert poses as a postal worker, the role she played in La Ceremonie. Ultimately, it works, and the perverse meeting Chabrol stages between the con men and the conned is bizarre and hilarious.