Saturday, July 16, 2011

REVIEW: Changing Lanes (2002)

Director: Roger Mitchell
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Affleck

Everyone has their own lives with their own problems that always seem like the worst ones to us individually – we think others just can’t understand what we’re going through, and it seems to us like our problems are the most important of all, even though others may be in similarly dire predicaments. This movie is a good example of that taken to the extreme. Changing Lanes stars Ben Affleck as a pretentious lawyer who will stop at nothing to close a case he’s working on, and Samuel L. Jackson, as a distraught father whose wife is divorcing him and getting custody of the kids. The two of them get in a car crash, and when Jackson ends up 20 minutes late to his divorce case, a sort of rivalry between the two men starts. The only problem is that Affleck lost one of his important files when he left it at the crash site, and Jackson now has it. Being that Affleck’s rush to get to the courthouse made it so Jackson couldn’t get a ride there, now Affleck needs his file back and Jackson isn’t so willing to comply. See the problem yet?

This film is just intense. The two men become locked in this combat and keep doing horrible things to one another, which escalate as the run-time goes on. The whole film is pretty much taken up by the two of them duking it out all across the city. Each man has something the other man wants, with both of them continually exchanging blows and making the other’s life that much more difficult. Sometimes this gets a little over the top, but by 3/4s of the way in, you see how dire and deadly this game has become – the two men have pushed themselves and each other to the edges of their tolerance. What started out as a sort of psychological game turns wildly out of control once they start actively trying to hurt one another. But eventually the game goes too far, and they are forced to reconcile and face their problems. In the end, they even help each other out in their own ways.

The characters are very well written, and since they’re the focal point of the film, it’s kind of imperative that they be. Affleck plays his character as a very high-strung, easily angered young man who takes rash actions very easily. Jackson, in fact, also plays a character prone to rash anger. This is why these two got into this situation in the first place. They’re both very easily angered and very hot tempered. Jackson plays his character as a more brutish, reactionary anger (having a chronic bad temper) as opposed to Affleck’s needling, near psychotic rage as he breaks down throughout the day. Each of them also have their own personal things going on, too – Jackson’s problems with his wife and son (brilliantly acted on all counts), and Affleck’s growing concern that his bosses are corrupt. They’re both very complex. Both characters are great and the actors do really well, and they’re supported by a host of side characters. Toni Collette as Affleck’s secretary, Amanda Peet as his wife, and Sydney Pollack as his father in law/boss are exceptionally powerful.

Changing Lanes works through escalating tension and masterful builds of excitement and suspense. I never knew where this movie was going to go, and it was entertaining in the quieter, more subtle moments as well as the action packed scenes. This is a very original and captivating movie, and I advise you to check it out pronto. Highly recommended.