Up and coming New York lawyer Gavin Banek (Ben Affleck) changes lanes on crowded FDR Drive and collects Doyle Gipsonís (Samuel L. Jackson) creaky car in a minor collision, while both on the way to a court of law Ė albeit different ones. But the chain reaction the incident sets off is anything but minor, as both men lose valuable things as a result. Banekís loss of crucial documents at the scene threatens his rising career while Gipsonís delay puts at risk his links with his two young sons. Both men go to extreme lengths to try and recover what they stand to lose, but neither expects their lives to be changed forever, and certainly not in the way they are.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Small triggers, big explosions Ė thatís how a child psychologist once summed up the nature of childhood and one of the many challenges of parenting. In Changing Lanes, the same notion is the starting point for a story that puts two strangers into a seemingly minor incident and lets the results unravel in as dramatic a fashion as possible. So far, Iím engaged, because I know from my own life that this is how things go from bad to worse. It happens all the time. I go to wipe up the cat sick on the carpet and rip my trousers, and as I throw the dirty cloth into the sink with domestic rage, it hits a glass and sends it crashing just as the phone rings and itís my wife saying sheís locked herself out of the car. And this isnít the worst case scenario. The cumulative effect of badly timed mini-disasters take on a force so fierce they can end up destroying you. To an outsider, you seem to be overreacting. Changing Lanes looks a bit like that, too, but in my view, life is JUST like that. As one door shuts, another one slams in your face. So theyíve made a film of it. Moody, rainy New York is the backdrop, and thereís even rain inside the law firm where Gavin works when the fire sprinklers are set off Ė on purpose. The rain only stops momentarily, and comes back as a shower at the end. This metaphor is more intriguing than the heavy lawyer bashing the scriptwriters employ: I can see them hitting the keyboard with relish at every line where the legal profession is portrayed as amoral slime oozing over New York city. So thatís another reason to like the film (just kidding) but I also like the performances, even the heavy handed ones. Inside the filmís conflict-powered plot there is a decent moral trying to get out, but itís not that, itís the tension that keeps you in your seat. Affleck and Jackson are good sparring partners and bring credibility to the characters, with Sydney Pollack a well-judged legal whore of the highest order.
Review by Louise Keller:
Itís frightening isnít it? How one single action or event can change the course of the day or the week or even impact on the rest of your life. A powerful exploration of how one event leads to a devastating chain reaction, Changing Lanes is a story that encompasses idealism, disillusion, revenge and integrity. Itís a powerful and intelligent film about lives that spiral out of control allowing the different sides of a character to oscillate and contest for supremacy. Its edgy theme accentuated by a jumpy camera and acute angles / view points, allows us to hone in on two very different characters who have both reached a major crisis or turning point in their life, following the impact of their chance meeting. And as they both discover, the gut instinct of revenge is relatively easy to instigate, while un-doing the damage is not as easy. Both men are disillusioned, and the journey that we partake with each of them is an enlightening and satisfying one, as they face their individual demons and are forced to make major decisions about their lives. Ben Affleck shows a side of him that he has never shown before: this is a role that suits him beautifully. From smug to self-doubting, thereís a substantive depth that Affleck brings to Gavin and we totally understand the situation he is in. He misjudges the moment and at each turn makes yet another error of judgement which catapults him into a crisis situation. Samuel L. Jackson captures the essence of Doyle who feels that just as he has conquered his demons, life has swallowed him up and dealt him unfairly. As the intensity of emotions coagulate and escalate, we too are gripped in the uncertainty of the moment. There are many scenes that stay in my memory Ė like the scene in the expensive restaurant when Gavin meets his wife, and realises seemingly for the first time how their expectations are at different ends of the spectrum. To an observer they make a handsome couple chatting over lunch, but at close quarters, their meeting is a devastating confirmation of Gavinís loss of moral integrity and displays the prison walls surrounding him. I felt as though I was on a see saw, tipping from one extreme to another. Itís a gripping film that dazzles and haunts by its honest script and exceptional performances. Itís always a pleasure to see Sydney Pollack at work on the screen, and his ethics-deficient lawyer is a chilling reminder of the harshness of big business. Watch out too for Toni Colletteís Michelle who offers a grounding and Ďget realí contrast to Gavinís icy wife whose priorities reside in the self-serving lane.
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CHANGING LANES (M)
CAST: Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Affleck, Toni Collette, Sydney Pollack, William Hurt, Amanda Peet
PRODUCER: Scott Rudin
DIRECTOR: Roger Michell
SCRIPT: Chap Taylor and Michael Tolkin
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Salvatore Totino
EDITOR: Christopher Tellefesen ACE
MUSIC: David Arnold
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Kristi Zea
RUNNING TIME: 99 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: UIP
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 21, 2002