Our review of Changing Lanes (Blu-Ray), published May 20th, 2009, is also available.
One wrong turn deserves another.
Sometimes in life people come together under crazy circumstances. Sometimes they fall in love or break apart. And sometimes people collide with such impact that it creates sparks or hatred and anger so bright that it seems they might spontaneously combust. Such is the case with the Ben Affleck / Samuel L. Jackson thriller Changing Lanes. Directed by Roger Michell (known more for his sappy Nothing Hill than for seething drama), Changing Lanes became a box office hit featuring taut performances and a clever, intense screenplay co-written by Michael Tolken (The Player). Changing Lanes drives up on DVD care of Paramount Home Entertainment.
Facts of the Case
Gavin Banek (Ben Affleck, Good Will Hunting, Armageddon) is a corporate attorney for a high power firm. Doyle Gipson (Samuel L. Jackson, Pulp Fiction, Shaft) is a recovering alcoholic who is trying to get his life—and family—back on track. Neither of these men have any reason to meet…until today.
While driving on the FDR in New York City the two men's cars collide. Doyle wants to do right by exchanging numbers and insurance information, even though he's late for an appointment at court to fight for custody of his two children. Gavin is also in hurry to court for an important case, and finds himself annoyed at Doyle's insistence on going by the book. With minimal damage and no injury, Gavin wishes Doyle "better luck next time" and drives off, leaving Doyle stranded without a ride to his appointment.
At the courthouse, Gavin is fighting to show proof that a deceased millionaire legally turned over his charitable foundation to Gavin's firm. As he attempts to prove his case he realizes that he accidentally left a key document at the scene of the accident—and Doyle has it. Once Doyle realizes the paper he's in possession of, the chase is on as the two men deceptively fight each other in an act of revenge from which there may be no turning back…
Oh boy, did I love this flick. Changing Lanes is a rare movie among movies—it's filled with thrills, chills, social commentary, a deep message, and great performances throughout. I can see why it did such good box office business upon its initial release. Changing Lanes is something of a rarity in Hollywood today: it entertains and makes you think. Whodathunkit?
We've all gotten pissed off at someone at least once in our lifetime. Being cut off in traffic, a rude waitress, a snotty co-worker…it happens to the best of us. Most folks are able to keep their raging emotions in check. While we may say something snide back to those who have wronged us, that's about as far as we go. Changing Lanes shows what happens when we cross that line between civilized decency and unbridled rage. Director Roger Michell has created a tight, fast paced film that completely plays with our conceptions of what a drama should be like. The script was written by Chap Taylor and Michael Tolken (who also wrote Robert Altman's wonderfully sublime The Player) and never lets up in its relentless pace. I don't want to give too many of the story's twists away, as I think Changing Lanes is a film that needs to be seen with as little prior knowledge as possible. What I will say is that I haven't been quite this gripped—this enthralled—with a movie since David Fincher's equally exciting The Game.
Samuel L. Jackson and Ben Affleck provide the film's backbone as the two men caught up in a storm of personal vendetta. Both of these actors do an excellent job at conveying the anger, sadness, and frustration brought on by each other's acts. While Affleck has made a few stinkers, at least he's always interesting in his films. Affleck does a wonderful job at making Gavin a truly human man who just gets caught up in his passion for doing what he thinks is right…even when it's unequivocally wrong. Jackson, one of Hollywood's best actors working today, keeps his character toned down a bit until he's ready to pop—and when he does, it sends chills up the spine. Each actor injects a complexity into roles that could have been stock cookie cutter movie characters.
Supporting Affleck and Jackson are some wonderful character actors. Sydney Pollack, best known for directing such hits as Tootsie and The Firm, should never be underestimated as an actor. As Gavin's boss and father-in-law, Pollack looks the part of a man who might be hiding something underneath his normally smiling exterior. Amanda Peet (The Whole Nine Yards) and Toni Collette (The Sixth Sense) also receive accolades for their performances as the two women in Gavin's life.
Changing Lanes is something of a wonder when you think of all the crap Hollywood puts out over the year. I'd rather sit through this film ten times in a row than once through the latest Adam Sandler comedy debacle. Everyone involved in making this film should be pleased with its results—and the viewer will be even happier that they get to reap the reward of watching it. This movie comes highly recommended.
Changing Lanes is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Paramount has done a fine job at making sure this transfer is clean with hardly any defects marring the image. The film often sports a drab gray look to it, though that's because it takes place in the rain on a crappy day. Otherwise, the colors and flesh tones are all solid and bright with only the slightest amount of edge enhancement creeping into the picture. Overall this is a fine looking transfer, especially on a 16x9 television.
The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English, as well as Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround in English and French. Seeing as Changing Lanes is a mostly dialogue-driven film it wasn't surprising to find this mix light on directional effects or surround sounds. However, when it was needed the 5.1 mix's directional abilities filled in nicely with crystal clear dialogue, effects, and music. This 5.1 track won't overwhelm you, though it's no slouch either. Also included on this disc are English subtitles.
While this edition of Changing Lanes may not be considered a true "special edition," there are a few extra features included on this disc that should please fans. Starting off the supplements is a commentary track by director Roger Michell. This very informative track features some fine tidbits on the cast and crew, as well as some insight into the story and character motivation. Michell seems like a thoughtful, articulate man and this track is well worth the listen.
Next up is a 15-minute "The Making of Changing Lanes" featurette that sports interviews with director Roger Michell and actors Ben Affleck, Samuel L. Jackson, Toni Collette, and Sydney Pollack. This is typical fluff with everyone talking about their characters, how much they liked working with each other, yadda, yadda, yadda. Some behind-the-scenes footage is included, though it's rather quick and bland. This is good for one viewing, then it's pretty much disposable after that.
"The Writer's Perspective" is a short interview segment with writers Michael Tolkin and Chap Taylor. Both men have a lot to say about the story and character motivation (the key element to the film) and this far-too-brief featurette is a nice watch for those interested in the craft of screenwriting (likes your truly).
Two deleted scenes and an extended scene are included, each giving just a little more insight into the characters and their motivations (I've used that word a lot today, haven't I?) The two extended scenes are interesting, though I can see why they were trimmed from the final film.
Finally there is a theatrical trailer for the film presented in a widescreen format.
Changing Lanes is highly recommended to anyone who enjoys taut drama and excellent performances. The screenplay, direction, and performances are all top notch. I'm actually a little disappointed that I missed this when it hit theaters earlier this year. While Changing Lanes may not be the perfect film, any flaws are moot when compared to how enjoyable it is. Paramount has done a fine job on this disc—the audio, video, and supplemental portions are excellent.
One of the best films of 2002. Pick up your copy ASAP!
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary by Director Roger Michell
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