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Changing Lanes
2002 - R - 100 Mins.
Director: Roger Michell
Producer: Scott Rudin
Written By: Chap Taylor and Michael Tolkin
Starring: Ben Affleck, Samuel L. Jackson, Toni Collette, Amanda Peet, Sydney Pollock, William Hurt, Dylan Baker
Review by: Carl Langley
   

I want my two dollars!
People may suspect, from the trailers and advertisements that Changing Lanes is going to be an overwhelming ride compacted with car crashes and physical violence. Whereas, Roger Michell's intelligent film is intensified by the way the story is told, the movie does not need any extensive slaughter to keep the interest of viewers.

Gavin Banek (Ben Affleck), is an up-and-coming lawyer, whose boss (Sydney Pollack) is also his father-in-law. He has recently made his law firm partners proud by seducing a dying man into bestowing his fortune to them. The dying man’s granddaughter sues the law firm and Gavin now needs to prove they haven't committed fraud by producing a document with the signature of the deceased.

Doyle Gipson (Samuel L. Jackson) is an admitted alcoholic businessman, trying to clean up his life, so he can win back his wife and kids. With the help of his AA sponsor (William Hurt), Doyle has been sober for a couple weeks. Both Gavin and Doyle are rushing down FDR Drive to get to their scheduled court appointments. Here they have a minor accident that leaves Doyle immobile. After exchanging discussions improperly and bribing Doyle with a blank check for his damages, Gavin desperately leaves him behind, causing Doyle to be tardy. As Gavin dashes off, he leaves behind, with Doyle, the crucial file needed to prove his case.

From this point on, the cleverness and audacity of this film improves each scene. After the lenient judge gives Gavin until the end of day to fetch the document, he seeks Doyle out, whose judge was not so compassionate in his decision for the custody of his children. Doyle revengefully holds this document hostage, which evolves into a cat and mouse game. Gavin turns to his mistress (Toni Collette), who knows a guy (Dylan Baker) who can "fix things needed to be fixed." In seconds, Gavin has made Doyle bankrupt and shapes his already miserable life into a living hell.

Rookie Chap Taylor and Michael Tolkin scripted the movie. Tolkin has contributed his talent to films such as The Player and The New Age. Together they created the perfect script with dialogue from small supporting characters that affect the two protagonists. Jackson and Affleck shine in their roles, but they do not outdo the rest of the cast. Strong supporting performances come from Collette, Pollack, Hurt, and especially Amanda Peet, who plays Affleck's wife who knows about his one time affair. She explains that it is just part of "living on Wall Street."

What is really intriguing about the film is the ethical and moral issues these men face throughout the film. Changing Lanes shows that the two men come to realize their indecencies and they come to respect how important their moral values are to them.

Roger Michell is well known for his character-focused movies such as Persuasion and
Notting Hill. This movie does not have the touch of James Cameron or John Woo, who would have turned it into a blockbuster film. Instead Michell has produced a film that is coercive and forceful, that gradually increases with intensity. With a heart-pounding premise, clever script, and dynamic acting, Changing Lanes comes across as one of the year’s best.
 
Movie Guru Rating
An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant. An important film.  A substantive artistic achievement.  Resonant.
  4.5 out of 5 stars

 
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