Facts and Figures
Run time: 92 mins
In Theaters: Monday 1st October 1962
Distributed by: Prima Film
Production compaines: MK2 Productions, TF1 Films Production, Télévision Suisse-Romande (TSR), Rhône-Alpes Cinéma, Canal+
Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
IMDB: 7.6 / 10
The Swindle Movie Review
Judging by the title and the con-game setup, we're on alert for twists from the very beginning: Betty (Isabelle Huppert) is seen with an obvious mark at a casino. Soon she's got him back in his hotel room, drugged, and lets in an older man who's been watching the pair. He turns out to be her partner Victor (Michel Serrault), and they take 1/3 of the mark's money (not so much that he'd miss it) and vanish back to their RV. These guys are small time and they know it. Nothing wrong with that, but while planning their next move, Betty decides to take a vacation. She and Victor reconnect a few weeks later at a mountain resort, and she's apparently got another swindle going with a wealthy man carrying 5 million Swiss francs in an attache case. Obviously Betty's going to make a play for it, but is Victor going to be in on the deal too? Or is he going to try to nab it all for himself?
What follows is not a series of twists and turns but a flat-out linear narrative that does injustice to the con game movie. I'm not spoiling anything here by saying that the biggest twist in the film is that Huppert takes off a black wig to reveal her red hair. That's shocking, and for a con movie, it's inexcusable. You sit and watch and wait... you know something's going to happen. And nothing ever does.
It's made worse by the fact that none of this makes a lick of sense. The mark spends a week in the Swiss Alps with the money-filled attache sitting in his closet. Suddenly, when it's time to leave, he requires it be chained to his wrist? Or chained to his untrustworthy girlfriend's wrist? Considering he passes out drunk and the con men stand there, staring at the case, why not grab it and run? No reason except that Chabrol has a silly "which case is the money in?" setup planned for the third act, though his blatant camerawork always leaves little doubt as to that answer. (Hint: It's in the case he lingers on for several seconds at the end of a scene.)
Apologists would like to imagine this is not actually a con movie but rather a comedy, and Chabrol does make some attempts to be funny, a few of which succeed (though I wager the jokes are better if you understand Franco-Swiss relations in full). For the most part this is an unfunny and unthrilling film; it's serviceable as light entertainment, but it's a weak entry into Chabrol's oeuvre. Ultimately, I can only assume that the titular swindle refers to the audience who paid $15 for the DVD.
Aka Rien ne va plus.