Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
SPECIAL FEATURES: Commentary by director Roger Michell; Making
of Changing Lanes (14 mins); 'A Writer's Perspective' featurette
(6 mins); Deleted and extended scenes (9 mins); Theatrical trailer.
MORALITY tales, told from a Hollywood perspective, usually become
heavy-handed, preachy affairs which seldom have the conviction
to challenge the perceptions of viewers and really make them ask
It is refreshing, therefore, to find that Changing Lanes seldom
pulls its punches, plunging viewers into an intriguing moral dilemma
from the outset and constantly surprising them with the directions
the story takes.
Ben Affleck and Samuel L Jackson star as two men who collide
during a rush-hour fender-bender on New Yorks crowded FDR
Drive while on the way to two important meetings.
For Afflecks cocky lawyer, Gavin Banek, the collision is
a minor nuisance, best resolved with a quick pay-off and an even
speedier getaway, so as not to be late for court, where he is
wrestling for control of a late clients charitable trust.
The only trouble is that, in his haste to get away, Affleck leaves
a document which is important to the case.
For Jacksons Doyle Gipson, however, the collision means
much more. His car is totalled and he, too, needs to get to court
to prevent his wife from getting sole custody of his children
and moving away. The accident means he is late.
However, he does possess Baneks document, so when the two
meet again and Banek attempts to turn on the charm in a bid to
get it back, an irate Jackson holds it to ransom, sparking an
escalating battle of wits between the two, which threatens to
destroy them both.
It would be easy to dismiss the movie, at this point, as a mere
good guy versus bad guy/David v Goliath tussle, with Jackson taking
the form of the wronged everyday man, trying to get his life back
in order against insurmountable odds.
But Notting Hill director, Roger Michells movie is far
more complex than that. Affleck may start off as arrogant and
extremely career-driven, but the events of the day force him to
confront the realities of what his life is becoming, even though
the lengths to which he goes in order to retrieve the document
becoming increasingly more cut-throat.
Jackson, meanwhile, is a reformed alcoholic, addicted to
chaos, who seldom avoids confrontations no matter what the
cost to himself. He is a hot-head, prone to violence, who ruined
his marriage long before the events of this particular day.
Both men find themselves wrestling their own inner demons as
much as each other during the course of their battle and it is
this, more than anything, which makes the film so compelling.
Jackson is typically towering as Gipson, effortlessly toying
with the viewers emotions as a man desperate to do the right
thing, but driven by his own inability to back down from any given
situation, while Affleck is probably better than he has been for
some time, making the most of some quality material and living
up to the potential first showed with turns in the likes of Chasing
Amy and Good Will Hunting.
But the leads are ably supported by a first-rate support cast,
with Sydney Pollock's shadowy business partner a particular highlight,
along with Toni Collette, as a former love interest, and Amanda
Peet, as Affleck's designer wife, all making their mark and given
time to do so.
Michells direction remains tight throughout, seldom allowing
proceedings to become bogged down in unnecessary sentiment, or
too focused on one character.
If the ending feels a little contrived, the movie can just about
be forgiven, for this is, in the main, riveting stuff - an intelligent,
gritty, well-observed take on the state of modern society, which
isnt afraid to point a finger at what it has become. I am
sure that audiences will find elements of Gipson and Banek in
all of them.