Personal trials featured in `Lanes'
By BRIAN BIRCHER
Scene Movie Critic
Have you ever wondered if you had done one thing differently could your day, or even your life, have turned out better? This is one of the questions that "Changing Lanes" attempts to make the audience consider. Unlike other films with similar premises, such as "Sliding Doors" or "The Family Man," "Changing Lanes" makes this not a question of chance, but one of morality — there is doing what is right and doing what is wrong.
The movie wastes no time getting started after quickly establishing its two main characters: Gavin Banek (played by Ben Affleck), a rising young lawyer in his father-in-law's firm, and Doyle Gipson (played by Samuel L. Jackson), a recovering alcoholic who is attempting to make amends with his wife and two young sons.
On important days for both men, they get into a fender-bender on the F.D.R. Highway in New York. The accident is really no one's fault and neither man is hurt. As they both check to make sure the other is OK, they take differing approaches to dealing with the accident. Doyle wants to do "the right thing" and exchange insurance information. Gavin, already late for court where he is delivering sensitive documents, has no time for insurance information and hands Doyle a signed blank check instead, saying, "Better luck next time."
Doyle was also in a hurry to reach court to argue for visitation rights of his sons with his separated wife. As a result of the accident he gets stranded on the F.D.R and is late for his court appointment, losing any chance at having visitation rights with his sons. Meanwhile, Gavin arrives at court only to realize that he left the extremely important case file with Doyle as he was writing the check. The judge gives him until the end of the day to submit the documents to the court, setting off a cat-and-mouse rivalry between Gavin and Doyle as each attempts to make the other's life worse in order to get what they want: for Gavin it's the file and for Doyle it's the time in which he lost his sons.
What could have been an intelligent back and forth mental battle between the two men turns into a relatively predictable struggle. While the plot is nothing revolutionary, Affleck and Jackson's performances are good. Affleck tends to inhabit the same character in his movies: the loudmouth, brash yet charming character. The skill in which he depicts Gavin as his debacle profoundly changes his character throughout the course of one day is convincing and realistic.
Jackson is equally convincing as a father sincerely trying to make amends with his family, but still battling a temper that has obviously led to trouble in the past. This is one of the positive qualities of the movie, that it allows its characters to develop throughout the course of the two hours as the audience learns more details about the men.
Despite these performances, "Changing Lanes" is another addition to the thriller/drama genre that is so popular these days, attempting to seek higher ground by intellectually engaging the audience with its focus on issues of morality. In this, it succeeds to an extent and offers a fairly entertaining two hours.
(three out of five shamrocks)
Contact Brian Bircher at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All Scene Stories for Thursday, April 25, 2002