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‘Changing Lanes’ 4K UHD (Blu-ray review)

Kino Lorber

“Better luck next time…”

The road of life can be twisty and treacherous, but if you are unfortunate enough to take a wrong turn somewhere, do you have to continue along that path to the bitter end or try and take a better route, regardless of the consequences?  This is the dilemma faced by the protagonists of Roger Michell’s engaging 2001 drama, Changing Lanes.

Two men from diametrically different worlds, hot-shot lawyer Gavin Banek (Ben Affleck) and desperate soon-to-be divorced dad Doyle Gibson (Samuel L. Jackson) need to be on court on time.

Banek needs to prove an elderly billionaire client signed his charitable foundation over to his law firm.  Gibson needs to prove the house he is buying will be security enough for his wife and kids so she will not move to the other side of the country.

It seems simple enough, until a random fender bender stops them in their tracks.

It’s not really anyone’s fault (at least to this tired pedestrian’s eyes!) and the two men ask each other if they’re okay.  This isn’t a stereotypical road rage thriller, but revenge is definitely part of the story here.

Rich boy Banek doesn’t want to lose valuable time filling out insurance documents but simply hands Gibson a blank cheque and speeds away, leaving him stranded on the highway in the rain with the clock ticking…  Hailing a cab, Gibson eventually arrives at court twenty minutes too late to present his case, even if the uncaring judge could be bothered to listen.

Twenty minutes have effectively cost him his family and everything he cares about.

Banek, on the other hand, has made it to court on time but finds he is missing vital paperwork with the old man’s signature. If he fails to produce it in 24 hours, he may be charged with fraud.  Who should have the file?  Gibson, who faxes his newfound nemesis a sample page with “Better luck next time” scribbled across it…  which provokes Banek to hire a shady computer “Mr Fixit” (a brief but deliciously malicious Dylan Baker) to mess with Gibson’s bank account.

And so begins a rapidly escalating game of cat and mouse between the two men as each tries to outmaneuver the other. This is no “innocent guy provokes a psychopath” thriller as it could easily have been in lesser hands- both protagonists are equally right and equally wrong and share equal agency in how things turn out.

Both men are already under pressure from their differing family situations- Banek is trapped in a cold marriage which seems to be part of his dodgy day job, Gibson a recovering alcoholic clinging to the wreckage of his family. (Jackson is always a compelling watch- Samuel L., not me! – but seeing him sitting at a bar with an untouched drink in front of him, emotions coursing through him as he hits rock bottom, reminds you of just how good he is.)

Changing Lanes boasts a suitably smart and emotionally honest script co-written by then-novice Chap Taylor and The Player’s Michael Tolkin as well as a sparkling supporting cast including Toni Collette, the late, great Sydney Pollack and equally late, equally great William Hurt.  It is a film about moral choices and how precisely how far people will go when their lives spin inexorably out of control.

Extras include archival commentary, featurettes, deleted/extended scenes and trailer.

Yes, you might think that Banek’s lawyer would never be naive enough not to suspect what his bosses were really up to, but this is a young Ben Affleck, so I’ll give him the value of the doubt.  But on the whole, Changing Lanes is an intelligent, grown-up movie which asks and answers some tough questions.

Let’s just hope they don’t remake it with Gerard Butler and some guy from the UFC…

 

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