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Changing Lanes (R)
Official Site
Director:Roger Michell
Producer:Scott Rudin
Written by:Chap Taylor and Michael Tolkin
Cast:Ben Affleck, Samuel L. Jackson, Sydney Pollack, Toni Collette, Amanda Peet, William Hurt
Rating: out of 5

Changing Lanes begins with an interesting premise but takes it too far. This movie changes a little more than lanes, like changes of character motives and all pretense of believability.

Driving down New York City’s FDR Drive, Gavin Banek (Affleck) and Doyle Gipson (Jackson) sideswipe in a minor traffic accident. Gavin, in his hurry to get to the courthouse to defend his law firm’s power of appointment as trustees of a wealthy man’s estate, leaves a critical law document at the scene of the accident. Gavin speeds off without heeding Doyle’s pleas for a ride as his car received a flat tire from the wreck.

Later in the courtroom the judge gives Gavin an ultimatum to produce the power of appointment document by the end of the day or his law firm gets sued. At the scene of the wreck, Doyle scooped up the document. This is where the power play begins between the seemingly powerful law-mogul Gavin and the powerless paper-pusher Doyle.

The racial stereotypes of the two antagonists were bothersome; Ben Affleck is a affluent white lawyer while Samuel L. Jackson is an alcoholic father struggling to salvage the family that he alienated. I’m not in favor of PC movies, but this movie unfortunately perpetuates racial stereotypes.

The initial back-and-forth demands and attacks from each man culminate with Gavin shelling out five Gs to turn off Doyle’s credit, causing him to lose the loan he had taken out to buy a house for his wife and two sons.

Supporting performances added a glimmer of hope for this film. Toni Collette plays Gavin’s mistress with candor and effortlessness. The old and never crusty Sydney Pollack, who plays Gavin’s partner and father-in-law, oozes just the right slimy residue befitting his unscrupulous character. William Hurt delivers his usual strong, empathetic performance as AA buddy and voice of reason for Doyle.

Trying to appeal to 14-year old boys and men with 14-year-old mentalities, Changing Lanes contains a cheesy, un-terrifying crash scene. Doyle sabotages Gavin’s sleek Mercedes sports car, which then spins uneventfully out of control on the causeway and crashes. And guess where the car ends up—right next to Doyle’s car from the morning’s wreck. Coincidence—I think so.

One of the more troublesome aspects of this movie is that it doesn’t easily fall into a genre—when that is the necessary draw for a popcorn flick such as this. Changing Lanes, with its flat, unenthusiastic action scenes, is not an action flick. This movie cannot be classified as suspense because you can almost plot each character’s moves along a horizontal axis, going down. And this flick is hardly a comedy unless you count the witty repartee exchanged between moviegoers that focuses on the pitfalls of the film.

A particularly hilarious scene involves Ben Affleck and water. All right, ladies cool it down—the extreme corn factor of this scene washed away all my lusty thoughts of Ben, a secluded waterfall, and me. To investigate his partners’ clandestine conniving, Ben trips the sprinklers to buy some personal time with the files involved in the trust. The shot opens with the sprinklers raining down on all the posh office furniture. Ben Affleck enters right, marching triumphantly with a macho-determined visage that elicited a hearty chortle. Granted it was the only one in the theater; it was merited.

Skidding to a dead stop, Changing Lanes grows absurd when Affleck begins seeing the error of his money-hungry ways. Walking into a church (a church for God sakes, how hackneyed and out-of-character for this megalomaniac), Affleck contemplates the value of his law career as he helps his corrupt partners steal a billion-dollar estate away from their client’s charity.

Interestingly enough, Changing Lanes is one of the first films to be shot in New York, post Sept. 11. No spoilers will be given, but rest assured there is a syrupy-sweet happy ending to disgust all, especially this critic.

—Jennifer Prestigiacomo


hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

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