The Swindle 1997 | Movie Watchlist

Reviewed by Ken Fox

If Claude Chabrol, master of psychological tension and creeping psychosis, really is France's answer to Alfred Hitchcock, then this, his 50th (!) film, is his MR. AND MRS. SMITH: An uncharacteristic and equally uneasy attempt at light comedy. Victor and Betty

(Michel Serrault of LA CAGE AUX FOLLES and longtime Chabrol favorite Isabelle Huppert) are a pair of small-time con artists who make a nice living gently rolling drunken conventioneers. But Betty is after much larger game: Unbeknownst to Victor, she's spent the past year pursuing Maurice

(Francois Cluzet), a treasurer for an international finance outfit. Maurice is about to hand-deliver 5 million Swiss francs to his bosses in Guadeloupe, but Betty's got other plans for the money. She clues Victor in on her scheme, but her trick is never to allow anyone to see the whole picture,

and it becomes increasingly difficult to tell who's got the upper hand in this very dangerous game of love and shifting loyalties. Chabrol's own trick is never to reveal the true nature of the relationship between Betty and the much-older Victor: They could be father and daughter, but often act

like lovers. The resulting uncertainty redirects this frothy caper-comedy down a darker, more perverse road, and one gets the sense that it's there that the coolly detached Chabrol is most at home. Both Huppert and Serrault do have some fun with the ambiguity, but it's hard for an audience to

join in when it's clear they're not really in the game.