Directed by Roger Michell, Changing Lanes stars Ben Affleck and Samuel L. Jackson. They play two very different kinds of men whose lives intersect with nightmarish results. Mr. Affleck is Gavin Banek, a lawyer on a fast track who married the bosss daughter. At twenty-nine hes already made partner in a prestigious law firm. Mr. Jackson is Doyle Gipson, a recovering alcoholic and insurance salesman whos battling his ex-wife for custody of their kids.
While both are running late for their respective court dates they have a traffic accident. Gavin takes off in his bruised Mercedes, leaving Doyle whose car is totaled, to fend for himself on a congested New York motor way. Thus begins what has to be the all time day from hell.
While the movie has its faults, it has to be commended for maintaining a very palpable tension. Practically from the very beginning I found myself very uncomfortable. You experience first hand the overwhelming stress each one of these guys is facing and you feel for them. While Gavin certainly draws first blood when he leaves the scene of the accident, Doyle soon finds some pretty creative ways of evening the score and then some. Soon its a downward spiral of violence and counter violence thats all too familiar these days.
Whats also impressive about this film is that Mr. Jackson and Mr. Affleck cannot be portrayed as either hero or villain. Theyre angry men who both make some pretty bad decisions. You find yourself empathizing with both men at different points.
The film also stars Sydney Pollack as Delano, one of the senior partners at Mr. Afflecks law firm and his father in-law. A guy who likes to characterize himself as a realist, Delano is pretty up front about the fact that he screws people over for a living. From his perspective its the way of the world, kill or be killed. Dressed head to toe in black for his showdown dinner with Gavin, he leaves no doubt about whom the villain is. A fine actor Mr. Pollack turns in a rich performance.
Still its Mr. Jacksons performance as the struggling Doyle Gipson that ends up really making a mark. A man who wants to do whats right but clearly feels the pull to succumb to his baser instincts he paints a portrait of a man in conflict. His scenes with William Hurt, who plays his AA sponsor, are handled exceptionally well.
What separates Changing Lanes from being a great film instead of just a good one is the incredibly ridiculous ending. The sad part is that they had it. About ten minutes or so before it ends theres a nice point where things are settled but no apparently the film makers decided that audiences cant handle the least bit of ambiguity so they need to tie it all up with a nice pretty ribbon. How frustrating, especially when they got the other ninety- percent so right. Im Erik Petersen for Movie Magazine.
© 2002 - Erik Petersen - Air Date: 4/14/02
USA - 2002