Ben Affleck and Samuel L. Jackson are two ordinary men who go over the edge in Changing Lanes, an original although not overly exciting thriller from Roger Michell.
In the large majority of movies, there is a protagonist and an antagonist. The good guy's job is to defeat the bad guy. The bad guy's job is to just be bad. Changing Lanes takes another approach. After a minor car collision, an up-and-coming lawyer and a divorced father looking for custody of his children cross paths. A little rudeness prompts Affleck (the lawyer) to run off without giving Jackson (the father) any way of getting to his court hearing on time, and to leave his file behind. Jackson fails to get custody of his children and Affleck needs to get his files back by the end of the day, or he loses a case. What ensues is a nasty battle between two otherwise normal individuals, as they both go to incredible and dangerous lengths to get what they want.
Changing Lanes can easily be called a character movie, as it focuses on the lives of these two men. Both characters are given good depth, especially Jackson with his alcohol problem, not to mention the situation with his estranged wife and children. Affleck's life focuses almost entirely around his career, and he realizes that even his wife is his wife just because of where he works. Obviously, both their bad sides are shown in the movie, but it also goes to great lengths to explain why they are doing what they are doing, and that they really are good people. Affleck is given slightly better treatment than Jackson, but then again, that allows Jackson to steal the show just slightly.
Both actors do well, however; of course, Jackson is always pretty good at what he does (how come he hasn't won an Oscar yet?), but Ben Affleck shows that next month, when The Sum of All Fears is released, he might actually be able to take over the role of Jack Ryan from Harrison Ford. Affleck gives one of his best performances of his career in Changing Lanes.
The movie is advertised as a thriller, but I don't know if that is exactly what it is. It does have some tense moments, such as when Jackson tampers with Affleck's car, but when all is said and done, Changing Lanes is more of an exciting drama. However, there are a lot of slow moments, and I found my attention drifting at times.
Changing Lanes is a good movie, but it struggles at the end. Since it is dealing with a storyline that involves two people that are neither consistently good or bad, the ending is sort of weak. The movie tries to be neutral in what happens at the end, but it's really not that satisfying. As much as I didn't want either character to suffer, sometimes that has to happen to move the storyline along.
Changing Lanes is a different kind of movie, and it works well except for the ending.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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