Changing Lanes

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Review byMatthew Turner31/10/2002

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 99 mins

An interesting idea, though Affleck is miscast – watchable, but it could have been a lot darker.

The biggest surprise about Changing Lanes is that it’s directed by Roger Michell, the man behind the execrable Notting Hill. However, though Changing Lanes at least manages to avoid patronising the audience and never descends into outright awfulness, it’s still not the great movie that its rave reviews elsewhere might have lead you to expect.

The plot owes something to previous films such as Barry Levinson’s Tin Men (two salesman in an escalating spiral of revenge) and Falling Down (Michael Douglas having an absolutely appalling day).

Ambitious Lawyer Vs. Recovering Drunk

Ben Affleck plays Gavin Banek, an ambitious lawyer desperate to impress his intimidating boss (Sydney Pollack), particularly since he’s married the boss’ daughter and that still doesn’t seem to be enough. Meanwhile, Samuel L. Jackson plays Doyle Gipson, a – barely - recovering alcoholic making a last-ditch attempt to hold onto his custody rights.

Sure enough, as Banek rushes to an important court case, his car collides with Gipson’s, who is, in turn, rushing to his make-or-break custody hearing. Gipson’s car comes off worse and Banek leaves his details and takes off, unaware that he’s dropped an important file.

Spiral Of Revenge

Gipson is late for his hearing, with disastrous results, leading him to feel that Banek has ‘ruined his life’. And when he discovers how important the file is to Banek, the Escalating Spiral Of Revenge begins…

The two central performances are at once the best thing and the worst thing about the film. Jackson is excellent, playing a character that you initially sympathise with, and then gradually come to feel that he may be a little unbalanced (e.g. in the scene where he savagely beats up two racists).

Affleck, on the other hand, is miscast - his part calls for more complexity and a depth that Affleck’s shallow pretty-boy act just can’t handle. He seems oddly vacant as an actor, to the point where he’s never sympathetic. Which would be great if this was one of those ‘Enjoy the suffering of the Yuppie’ movies (the type that usually star Michael Douglas), but the clearly tacked on ending suggests this is not the case.

Who Cares What Happens To Them?

Having said that, it makes a refreshing change for neither character to be entirely sympathetic, though the net result of that is that you end up not caring what happens to either of them. Given that this is the case, it would have made for a better movie if the film had been much darker in tone. (What’s the betting that the original script had a much more downbeat ending?)

Ironically, two of the best performances in the film are also two of the movie’s most ludicrous elements. Dylan Baker is excellent as the mysterious ‘fixer’ Banek calls on (a great scene, but highly implausible) and Amanda Peet puts in yet another decent supporting performance as Affleck’s wife, although her ‘big scene’ is apt to cause unintentional laughter. There’s also good support from Toni Collette as Banek’s secretary with whom he’s had an affair.

To sum up, Changing Lanes is, on balance, worth watching, for Jackson’s performance if nothing else. It’s just a shame it wasn’t allowed to be the much darker movie it obviously wants to be.

Film Trailer

Changing Lanes
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Content updated: 21/11/2019 18:51

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