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
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
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
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.