Changing Lanes

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Movie Review by Kris Griffiths

Starring: Ben Affleck, Samuel L Jackson, Toni Collette, Amanda Peet, Deen Badarou
Director: Roger Michell

With CHANGING LANES Paramount appears to be serving up another mid-budget action thriller but ends up delivering a surprisingly thought-provoking morality tale flaunting the best in the acting armouries of its two lead stars. A breath of fresh air indeed.

Gavin Banek (Ben Affleck) is involved in a minor car collision with Doyle Gibson (Samuel L Jackson) on a busy New York freeway. Both are on their way to court. Gibson, a down-and-out recovering alcoholic, is on his way to a court hearing concerning his ex-wife and the custody of their children. Banek, a hotshot young lawyer, is rushing to the most important court case of his life involving a serious fraud charge against his firm. Instead of swapping insurance details in the normal fashion, the cocky lawyer tosses a blank cheque at Gibson and wishes him “Better luck next time” and Gibson ends up arriving late at court, losing his case and the custody of his kids.

Banek, however, manages to leave a document at the crash scene, which is the only piece evidence that can save him and his colleagues from jail. After his desperate attempts to get it back he receives only taunts from the bitter Gibson so he visits a shady hacker who wipes out Gibson’s credit and bankrupts him. There follows a long petty battle of one-upmanship in which each man tries to further his revenge on the other, eroding both of their aspirations to being good people. As the tag line states, “One bad turn deserves another”.

What makes this film so interesting is its clever character study. Deep down both characters are genuinely good men but both have serious flaws. Banek struggles with the guilt that comes with the grey legal areas in which his firm deals – what is good and what is bad – but until now has accepted the philosophy of his boss and father-in-law, played superbly by Sidney Pollack, that its ok as long as you do more good than bad. Gibson, a man who has suffered a lot through alcoholism and divorce, also suffers from irrational anger and always reacts to situations in the worst possible way. He is, as his mentor played by William Hurt states, “addicted to chaos”, and chaos rules the day he met Banek.

CHANGING LANES does well to steer clear of the predictable and cliched topics concerning class and race, remaining instead on the course of the internal conflicts taking place in its protagonists. The result is an unpredictable and original movie that keeps you riveted by its ongoing spectacle of reprisal and retribution. Alongside an excellent supporting cast both Jackson and Affleck can rank it as one of their finest performances to date.

5 out of 6 stars