Changing Lanes (2002)
"Let me get this straight, you were chasing some girl named Amy . . .?"
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What's most surprising about the new drama Changing Lanes is how different it actually is from it's advertisements. Nearly every ad I've seen for this film make it look like some kind of over-the-top actioneer that stems from a fender bender. Thankfully, this movie is a little bit deeper than that, although it does suffer from a fair share of heavy handed moments.
In Changing Lanes, Ben Affleck is an up-and-coming lawyer, and Samuel L. Jackson is recovering alcoholic. During one extremely hectic day, these two very different men cross paths through an untimely and most unwelcome set of circumstances. On their way to very important appointments, Affleck and Jackson find themselves in a most unfortunate car accident. The wreck causes a downward spiral for both men, culminating in a vicious game that proves to be far more destructive then the accident itself.
Changing Lanes was directed by Roger Mitchell (Notting Hill) in a very cynical fashion. This film paints an ugly portrait of the world, and it's fascinating that both lead characters are ultimately right and wrong at the same time.
This is easily Affleck's most effective work since his star making turn in Chasing Amy. He's very convincing as a clueless lawyer who gets a lesson in life. Jackson is also effective as Affleck's counterpart, a troubled man who wants to get his life together. The two actors have very few scenes together (think DeNiro and Pacino in Heat), but the moments they do share, really work. Famed director Sydney Pollock is terrific as a sleazy lawyer and Affleck's father-in-law, while William Hurt is strong in an all too brief turn as one of Jackson's AA sponsors.
Changing Lanes has a structure similar to last year's Training Day and is also slightly reminiscent of Falling Down. The movie takes place over the course of one day, but it's characters go through more earth-shattering situations than a common person might go through in a lifetime. While that aspect of the picture didn't bother me, I did feel that many situations were piled on pretty thick. I also could have done without the sappy ending. I liked the fact that there was light at the end of the tunnel, but the ending felt way too pat.
You could say that Changing Lanes is about road rage. I like to look at it as a movie about two people who, thanks to the worst day of their lives, realize that there is goodness in the world and that everyone can make a difference. While the film strains mighty hard to get this point across, it's a well intentioned morality tale with good performances and enough strengths to recommend.
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