"Better luck next time." That quote is heard from the oft-showed trailer for Changing Lanes, the supposed revenge/suspense thriller starring Samuel L. Jackson and Ben Affleck. Well, that quote is something the director of this film is probably thinking right now.
Changing Lanes is a story about power, vindictiveness, deceit, and a race against the clock involving two men who meet on a New York City freeway during a car accident, both of whom are overdue in court. They cannot resolve the situation and one man leaves the other literally out in the rain holding the bag, or in this case, the brief. When the first man, a hot shot lawyer Gavin Bannick (Affleck), realizes that the other one, a recovering alcoholic insurance agent Doyle Gibson (Jackson) has something he needs, the chase ensues to get it back, and to get back at one another.
From the trailers at least, the film looked fast paced, suspenseful, and tense. However, that is not what you got in the theater. The action was slow to moderate, and at its best, sporadic and unsurprising. You knew from the previews that one of them was going to mess up the other's finances, car, and legal standing. The only thing you didn't know was how it was going to be done. Well, the scenes leading up to what turns out to be tit-for-tat, juvenile one-upmanship, don't keep you on the edge of your seat or biting your nails. You just realize that the characters are just going through the motions until you reach the "there, there... all better now, everything is forgiven" ending of the movie which is so representative of these types of films. Changing Lanes borders between a morality tale and soap opera. I think the point of this movie was to show how normally good people can go bad and how the "system" can make some people do things they normally otherwise wouldn't (Jackson's character). It also deals with how things you've done unto others can be done unto you (Affleck's character).
There was nothing surprising in this film....everything was predictable from the beginning to the end, and the disclosures from the previews just spoiled any bombshells the plot may have contained. The acts of revenge, while intended to be heinous, simply came off petty and lacked any display of rage, wrath, or fury. What was noticeably lacking was any violence. No guns, no punches, no fires...just a lot of dirty tricks. I think the director could have taken some cues from a few WWF matches. Oddly enough, all of these things seem to take place over the course of one day.
It was obvious the director of this movie was not in the Army, because this film was not all that it could be. The plot was good, and if carried out properly could have been a raw, edgy, gripping movie that would make you think twice before you thought about blowing someone off next time you got into a fender bender. Instead all you got was a "tag you're it" type of story, where the actors go back and forth. I've seen more action and tension during the Wimbledon finals. On the other hand, the movie does get thought provoking where you see deeper into the character's lives and motivations. You have Affleck, who is rich and sees money as the answer to his problems or a validation of his success and worth. Conversely, you have the working class Jackson who relies on alcohol to drown away his woes. He is told by his AA sponsor (William Hurt) that liquor isn't his drug of choice, and it isn't. What we really see that for Gibson it is anger and if we look deeper, it is seamless deception and having the advantage for Bannick. The final third of the movie deals with Gavin coming to terms with his various levels of cheating and how he finally makes it work for him. There are compelling morality lectures made by his Bannick's wife (Amanda Peet), his father-in-law, and finally himself as to the spoils of dishonesty and accepting what he is.
Needless to say that Samuel L. Jackson does a good job in his role, and Affleck, who is not the thespian that Jackson is, was a great fit for the part as the arrogant, attorney who is trying to climb the ladder at his law firm, forming part of an Unholy Trinity of sorts with his father-in-law and senior partner. Also noteworthy is Kim Saunton, playing Gibson's estranged wife and Toni Collete, as the secretary who rallies around Affleck when he needs her. (Hint: she took a different type of dictation from her boss).
All in all I'm going to give it a rental rating, but it's something that you won't regret seeing. I don't see what all the critics were raving about as far as being Oscar material but if the concept is redone in the future perhaps someone will have better luck next time.
Billz Movie Worthiness Scale: C
Billz Movie Worthiness Scale Values:
A = movie tickets and popcorn for 2 (about $40)
B = buy the DVD when it comes out ($25)
C = rent it
D = wait for it to be on cable/pay TV
E = wait for it to be on regular TV
Order from Amazon
Buy Posters at AllPosters.com
Internet Movie Database Listing