Changing Lanes (2002)

2015 #75
Roger Michell | 95 mins | TV | 2.35:1 | USA / English | 15 / R

Changing LanesHot-shot lawyer Ben Affleck and down-on-his-luck Samuel L. Jackson are involved in what Americans like to assonantly call a fender bender, making the latter miss a custody hearing and the former lose an important document worth millions… which Jackson happens to pick up. Cue a game of tit-for-tat retaliation, as Affleck tries to recover the file by ruining Jackson’s life further, and an increasingly-desperate Jackson enacts increasingly-violent revenge.

I don’t know if Changing Lanes was aiming to be a state-of-the-nation thriller (it was made a good few years before the financial collapse, after all) or just a character drama, but either way, the storyline is a mite too implausible, and the ending — where everyone suddenly realises The Right Thing To Do — is rather pat (apparently it replaced a more combative finale that test audiences didn’t like). These factors are only emphasised by the fact it supposedly all takes place in one day. The characters’ taxi bills must’ve been enormous…

Jackson and Affleck give good performances, all things considered, with each treated to worthwhile (if commensurately obvious) speeches. As Affleck’s wife, Amanda Peet appears for one strong scene, though some other cast members — I’m thinking specifically of William Hurt as Jackson’s AA sponsor — are rather wasted. Also, for a film I still thought of as rather recent (my error — it’s 13 years old), it feels quite dated — I mean, it’s shot on film! Despite being released in April 2002 in the US, and not until November over here, they left in a shot of the Twin Towers (apparently they were initially removed with CGI, then it was decided to leave them in as a tribute. Considering they appear for a sole, fleeting glimpse in the middle of a montage, in a shot that doesn’t even feature any of the cast, Fender benderI don’t know why they bothered). The worst offender is David Arnold’s score — all turn-of-the-millennium club-y electronic-drum-kit-y beats, for a character-driven drama/thriller? Ugh.

Changing Lanes isn’t a bad film, it just doesn’t feel like the best realisation of a concept that has some potential.

3 out of 5