Changing Lanes (2002), Run-time 99mins, Cert 15.

Director - Roger Michell.

Writer - Chap Taylor.

Starring - Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Affleck, Toni Collete, Amanda Peet, Dylan Baker & Sydney Pollack.

 

Premise - Gavin (Ben Affleck) is a partner in a large New York law firm on his way to a very important hearing. Doyle (Samuel L. Jackson) is a recovering alcoholic on his way to a divorce hearing that will decide if his family leaves him and moves to Oregon. When they hit each other on the freeway a set of events is set into motion that will affect both of them for the rest of their lives.

I had high hopes for Changing Lanes; I’m a huge fan of Samuel L. Jackson, I think Ben Affleck can be a pretty good actor when he wants to be and the various reviews had all been fairly positive. Well, all I can say is what a let down.

This was a turgid ninety odd minutes to sit through. I never at any point felt like I was being drawn in by the story; it just seemed to pass me by. The two main characters, whilst capably acted, are a couple of unsympathetic losers that failed to give me any reason to care about what happens to them. And the ending felt incredibly tacked on, I think I smell a poor test audience reaction and a hasty re-shoot.

First things first, the story. There is no hook, outside of the car accident there was nothing here that got me excited. They had a chance to create a nice dynamic after the accident, but all we got was a fairly standard game of cat and mouse. Each protagonist tries to get the upper hand in order to reach their goals. Wash, rinse, repeat and get bored very quickly…….

The unsympathetic characters added to the reasons why I couldn’t get into the film. Some of their actions are so underhand and just plain nasty that I had a really hard time caring what happened to them. Affleck’s character is a slimy lawyer, couldn’t care less what happens to him. At one point it appears that he may have had an epiphany, but in the next scene he is doing something underhand again! Jackson’s character is a family man at heart, but he has some rage issues and ends up looking just as bad as Affleck.

I don’t necessarily need a character to be likeable in a movie for me to like it, but I felt that this film desperately needed a straight arrow, someone that I could have been capable of rooting for. As it stands they could have both ended up in Jail at the end of the film and I wouldn’t have batted an eye lid.

It’s not the two leads fault as I thought that each acted very well. Jackson is always reliable and shows glimpses when he is with his family of a direction in which his character could have went. As I said Affleck is capable of pulling it off when he feels like it and he copes well here with what is almost a retread of his character from Boiler Room. Even in the dreadful closing restaurant scene he comes of looking good.

The film is also guilty of wasting great acting talent in minor and fleeting roles. What exactly was the point of William Hurt’s character? He had about 3 minutes screen time, his sole purpose being to bail out Jackson from jail. Amanda Peet is an actress I like a lot, but again she is wasted here in a completely trivial role. She was also wearing too many clothes for my liking.

The support players that come off the best are Toni Collete and Sydney Pollack. Collete plays Affleck’s part time mistress and colleague. Again she is always reliable and nicely plays Devils Advocate for Affleck. Sydney Pollack beautifully plays Affleck’s completely heartless law partner and father-in-law. Not only a great director, but a decent actor as well!

As if to make up for the complete lack of any sympathetic character in the rest of the movie, the tacked on ending is overly moralistic and trite. We go from two nasty characters doing anything to trip the other up, to two changed individuals with fresh life perspectives in a matter of minutes. It doesn’t wash at all.

Not in a long time have I been so disappointed with a film. If it wasn’t for the high standard of acting in the film then this would have been getting close to John Q levels of poorness, but Sam the Man and Affleck save it from that fate…… just.

 

/10.

See Changing Lanes if you enjoyed – After Hours, Mad City.

Poster Quote – Mirror, signal, manoeuvre.