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Overall Rating

Awesome: 8.33%
Worth A Look53.13%
Average: 25%
Pretty Bad: 11.46%
Total Crap: 2.08%

6 reviews, 60 user ratings

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Changing Lanes
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by Stephen Groenewegen

"Moral crusaders"
4 stars

In Changing Lanes, we watch what happens when two men from contrasting worlds collide - literally. The action takes place on Good Friday so the story is, in essence, about forgiveness and redemption.

In Australia, Good Friday is one of the few remaining public holidays when most institutions close, but in New York it seems to be just another day. Banks, courts, even schools are all open for business, and each is crucial to the plot of Changing Lanes.

The protagonists, Gavin Banek (Ben Affleck) and Doyle Gipson (Samuel L Jackson), are making their separate ways to court when Banek’s car runs Gipson off the highway.

Banek is a rich, young white attorney at a Wall St law firm. He has to submit documents to the court to close the case he’s been working on and he’s running late for the hearing. After the crash, Gipson wants to do the right thing and swap insurance details. But Banek, whose car is the least damaged, brushes him off with a blank cheque and a smarmy “better luck next time”. It’s only once he’s before the judge that Banek realises he left the crucial power of appointment file at the scene of the accident. After lying to save face, he’s given a five o’clock deadline to file it with the court.

Gipson, a middle-aged black telemarketer, is left stranded and consequently arrives 20 minutes late for his court hearing. The previous day, he had a loan approved to purchase a city apartment for his two young sons. He’s also been attending Alcoholics Anonymous, under the guidance of a mentor (William Hurt), in an effort to address his anger management issues and alcohol abuse. But because he’s late, the judge refuses to listen to his application and awards Gipson’s ex-wife (Kim Staunton) sole custody of the children.

Only 29 years old, Banek can already feel his ruthless ambition and dedication to work tearing strips off his soul. He married for career reasons - his father-in-law, Stephen Delano (Sydney Pollack), is managing partner of the law firm. A down-to-earth colleague, Michelle (Toni Collette), is his mistress and acts as his conscience. Banek confesses to her his guilt over the case he’s been working on; that he pressured a dying man to sign over his fortune in a deal that advantaged the law firm at the expense of the man’s daughter.

The inability of either Banek or Gipson to see beyond his own life is responsible for their problems. Changing Lanes is about the escalation of conflict between them. It illustrates the consequences of needless anger (road rage) and the damage men are capable of when they have nothing to lose. Michell (Notting Hill, Persuasion) has made an assured thriller without sacrificing the story’s moral dimensions. The opening scenes have verve, thanks to the busy hand-held camerawork of Salvatore Totino. Each confrontation between Banek and Gipson has snap. But Michell also knows to slacken the tension between bouts, when each man is planning his next move.

The screenplay is credited to a first-time writer, Chap Taylor, and Michael Tolkin (who wrote The Player and was presumably brought in for polishing). I’d be curious to know whether the chief roles were cast as written, or adjusted to suit the players. Casting Affleck and Jackson was inspired because these actors contribute a ready-made contrast in age and temperament, as well as colour and status, to the characters.

Jackson is playing a man who’s “hooked on disaster” and chaos. On the page, he’s something like Michael Douglas’ enraged everyman in Falling Down. But Jackson doesn’t opt for clichés - his Gipson has a stillness that keeps you uncertain of his next move but also clearly demonstrates how hard the man is trying to stay in control. In comparison, Banek is constantly harried and tense. Affleck’s transparency as an actor is perfectly appropriate here. We need to track Banek’s mounting anger and frustration, and see how it conflicts with his burgeoning conscience.

The supporting characters are unusually striking. Toni Collette (who’s recently played an Australian gangster’s wife in Dirty Deeds and a suicidal British hippy in About a Boy) brings strength and idealism to her American lawyer. Her pragmatism illuminates Banek’s naiveté and privilege. Unfortunately, she’s so good that her absence from the second half of the movie is all too conspicuous. Amanda Peet makes Banek’s wife memorably cold-eyed and reptilian.

Pollack and Hurt lend the weight of experience as Banek and Gipson’s respective mentors, and are the mouthpieces for the film’s philosophies on moral responsibility. According to Hurt’s character, the world is held together by a contract and we are bound by unwritten rules of behaviour. Delano justifies breaking these rules because modern life is a “big, vicious rumble”. So long as you ultimately “do more good than harm”, there’s no point being distracted by the moral consequences of your actions.

Viewed from a distance, the plot of Changing Lanes may seem far-fetched and silly. What matters is that it grips for most of its length. Unfortunately, it’s saddled with a pat Hollywood ending. Although not monumentally stupid, and too brief to ruin the enjoyment of what’s come before, the conclusion is needlessly paternalistic (white helps black). It’s also a shameless attempt to whip us into a righteous frenzy that left me filled with despair, rather than hope. Surely this was not what the filmmakers intended?

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originally posted: 09/10/02 07:45:49
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User Comments

9/14/17 morris campbell effective thriller 4 stars
12/05/10 fmc Jackson is more believable than Affleck. Pollack overwhelms. 4 stars
8/27/08 Shaun Wallner This movie has some great scenes in it. 4 stars
1/15/07 David Pollastrini a bit slow in places but still good 4 stars
11/03/06 AJ Muller only "slow" if you can't appreciate character/story/mood - A+ for actors and script. 4 stars
8/20/05 ES This is definately one for the forgettable pile, neither inspires nor reviles 3 stars
4/03/05 Charlie Bit Slow 3 stars
3/30/05 R.W. Welch A little too contrived but manages to hold your interest. WAL most of the way. 4 stars
8/19/04 Peter B. Very good and involving! 5 stars
8/09/04 paolo enea it is a vey good movie 5 stars
7/08/04 Denise more story then i thought it would have 3 stars
6/24/04 Daveman Fails in what it aims to achieve because of the overabundance of irritating melodrama. 2 stars
4/28/04 Chaske Faulk good movie, not bad at all 3 stars
3/26/04 Alfred Guy More characters than crashes. it was better than I thought it would be. 4 stars
3/21/04 Linda Ellis Interesting story, kept my attention. 4 stars
3/18/04 Maria I thought the show was a worth looking at!! It had a good story line. 4 stars
3/17/04 Alfred Guy Better than I thought it would be. 3 stars
7/04/03 Jim Strong performances overcome a story that eventually becomes over the top. 4 stars
5/15/03 Den Beire Dont waste time and money on this. Sam jackson is, as always, the only good thing about it. 2 stars
3/25/03 Jack Sommersby Not too believable, but the story and characters are fascinating. 4 stars
11/26/02 Matthew Smith interesting film and a good cast 4 stars
11/26/02 Punk_Ass I really enjoyed the hell out of this film, nice supirse too, I saw no trailers or reviews. 4 stars
11/17/02 snowconehead Very predictable but still decent 4 stars
11/09/02 ^ZuLu^ too bad: very forseeable, too much of a stereotype, expected more of it. 3 stars
11/09/02 Nicole Too many plot holes to be ignored....irritating and horrid 2 stars
11/08/02 TLsmooth The Samuel L. I know would have bitchslapped the ho and stole the kids. 2 stars
10/19/02 palaboy101 It will make you think twice before doing something. 4 stars
10/09/02 spyguy2 At the level of made-for-TV. Totally over-rated. 2 stars
9/20/02 Phil M. Aficionado Needs to have a more credible story line before getting up on its pulpit; just so-so 3 stars
9/20/02 Eric Affleck and Jackson are wonderful, the movie is one of the year's best. 5 stars
9/13/02 rania it is very very nice, it's ethical 5 stars
9/12/02 palaboy101 Makes you think 4 stars
8/26/02 Martin I usually love Ben and Samuel....but I too wanted that time in my life back....... 2 stars
8/05/02 David A. This movie gets very preachy--be honest and don't hold grudges. Come on! Grow up! 2 stars
7/23/02 Bueller Ben Affleck as a lawyer? Right! Next, you'll say he's playing someone who works at the CIA! 3 stars
7/04/02 KMG Makes me detest the rich even more 4 stars
6/08/02 ownerofdajoint good performance by jackson/plot goes limp at end... 4 stars
6/05/02 cleansparks great movie. samuel jackson is once again excellent. 4 stars
5/26/02 Joseph Berger Excellent movie, strong writing, good acting, especially Toni Collette and Samuel Jackson, 4 stars
5/25/02 Suzz Stoopid, boring and totally implausible. 2 stars
5/24/02 Krakanova Uninspired acting, lame (but plausable) story 1 stars
5/12/02 Benjamin Leatherman Boorrrrrrring! Blah blah blah, at the end of the day I do more good than evil. Whatever. 2 stars
5/10/02 maverick Film Afficianado's spelling lacks "credability." LOL 4 stars
5/10/02 malcolm well, i'm not a lawyer. way too many of those fuckers. 4 stars
4/30/02 Film Afficianado Implausible. Lousy script. Completely lacks credability if you are a lawyer. 2 stars
4/30/02 The Bomb 69 just kept waiting for the suspense to build and then... nothing, total Hollywood ending!! 2 stars
4/27/02 Sarah really great movie--Ben Affleck and Samuel L. Jackson are excellent!!! 5 stars
4/27/02 JZA A decent movie, but you'll forget about it minutes after leaving the theater. 4 stars
4/26/02 Andy Enjoyable though the ending was lame, should have been a tragedy. Hollywood has no balls. 3 stars
4/24/02 Jimmy James meh, worth watching once 3 stars
4/23/02 KMG Very good movie....Affleck is a shit, SLJ is pissed off as usual 4 stars
4/21/02 Janine Lay good story line, but very slow moving and boring at times 3 stars
4/20/02 Film Guy Good movie.but way to over hyped 4 stars
4/18/02 Nick2k wow. this movie was really good. this'll make up for affleck's pearl harbor crap. 5 stars
4/17/02 El Scorcho Only 4 comments? This movie looked like it sucked ass, but was involving and mature. A- 5 stars
4/15/02 Emily great 5 stars
4/15/02 Film Dude Not bad. A bit tedious though. 4 stars
4/14/02 Akira_773 Excellent movie. Don't miss, if you value your moviegoing sanity 4 stars
4/12/02 Dmitri Tiomkin The worst kind of Hollywood "formula". The plot creaks mechanically. 1 stars
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  12-Apr-2002 (R)



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