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When `Changing Lanes' first opens, the viewer is presented with a montage
jagged credits, trendy jerking photography cruising NYC streets, and
electronic beats that are so cool they could be used for cryogenic
It quickly seems apparent that this film is simply a star-vehicle for Ben
Affleck and Samuel L. Jackson; it seems apparent that this is a cold and
impersonal genre-exercise for a successful comedy director, Roger Michell
(`Notting Hill'), to branch out; it seems to be all these things until the
end of this sequence when the camera glances out the window of a school bus
out onto the New York City skyline, and there we see it: the World Trade
Center. Unlike Sam Raimi's upcoming `Spider-Man', delayed after September
11th so that the WTC could be digitally removed, this is a film unafraid to
date itself, and unafraid to look at human truth.
Affleck plays the role of the oddly named Gavin Banek (did they take the name Ben Affleck', throw it in a blender, and add some new letters for good measure?), a high-power lawyer on the verge of becoming one of the partners at his law firm, alongside his father-in-law. Jackson is Doyle Gibson, a reforming alcoholic father of two clawing his way out of his hole and trying to save his marriage. On a critical day in both their lives, Doyle going to court to try winning joint-custody, and Gavin on his way to seal his career-making case, the two get into a minor accident on the FDR turnpike, causing Doyle to miss his hearing and Gavin to accidentally give Doyle a signed document that is critical to his case and it all unravels from there.
The two tumble in a daylong haze of malice and self-destruction, sabotaging each other's lives. Whenever either decides to throw in the towel and do the right' thing, it is too late and the other has already escalated it to the next level. His life quickly falling down around him, Gavin begins to examine it for the first time, taking a deep look into his wife, his law firm, his boss/father-in-law, and himself ultimately questioning his motivation for trying to retrieve the document in the first place.
This is where the film really shines: many movies ask the question what makes a man?' but `Changing Lanes' does it with honestly and authenticity. The screenplay, by Chap Taylor, asks if it is success, or if its providing for one's wife and kids, or if its true goodness, avoiding superficiality and delving into the motivations for each. In one telling monologue, Gavin's father-in-law, played with perfect tone by Sydney Pollack, says, `At the end of the day, I do more good than harm. What other standard have I got?' Unfortunately, the movie does not really ask the question of what makes a woman, even though both wives show real strength. The movie does not even seem to suggest that Gavin and Doyle's struggles could even be applied to women (obviously they could, had the movie explored that).
Jackson, always an excellent actor, is great as Gibson even if he has performed better before. Surprisingly, in this film Affleck's acting actually seems to surpass Jackson's in this amazing performance that is probably the best we have seen from Affleck so far.
All of the characters in the film, including minor-roles and extras, all exhibit a very human feel, and seeing real-feeling people on the screen has always been something rare and not to be taken for granted. The viewer comes to care about everyone in the picture: Gavin, Doyle, their wives, the guy at the bank, even the stranger at the bar.
New York City itself is alive in this movie: it breathes, coughs, and gasps with Salvatore Totino's shaky, unsaturated, claustrophobic photography. Totino really looks at people and the city in the face, and does not try to make them prettier or uglier than they are. David Arnold's original electronic score is a refreshing change from the very poor attempts at orchestral music that most movies are now filled with. Arnold's score very effectively sets the mood and reinforces the tempo of the movie.
`Changing Lanes' is a success for Roger Michell that shows us that a movie can have major stars, be entertaining, glossy, substantial, and pensive all-at-once.
`Changing Lanes' is rated R for a fender-bender, destruction of office equipment, unseen infidelity, a shot of the World Trade Center, and honest depiction of the human condition.
This movie was surprisingly good, for many reasons. The most obvious is
probably that the characters develop before, during, and after the
presented story, as the film opens at a critical time for both of them
and closes with them having changed major parts in their lives.
I expected this to be a glorified version of Madd's Spy vs. Spy, or something of that nature, given the hype. However, it is not at the same pace at all... the violence is not cartoonish, its realistic. The characters are not simple, they are complex. They "have issues" and are both trying to find a better sense of balance in their lives, both do things which they regret... all in all, this is one of the most "human" movies I've ever watched.
Even though the characters are deep, the movie does not try to emphasis it with drawn out scenes with dramatic music or anything, which actually makes it more like watching real people than watching a movie. It also makes for a more powerful effect overall because it is up to the watcher to notice the subtleties.
The acting and directing are very well done, and there is some writing which surprised me in that it showed more about the characters rather than relating directly to the main conflict (I don't want to give too much detail and spoil it). The pacing is good and kept me interested throughout, partially to see what the main characters would do next and partially to see what, if anything, they would learn from the experience.
It is not as "epic" as something like Shawshank Redeption, and doesn't deal with esoteric themes such as Meet Joe Black or ominous themes such as Equilibirum or 1984(the novel), but in a way it is more epic because it deals with normal people who struggle to be beneficial humans despite major mistakes, pressures, and conflicts.
Uneven, but still strangely likable production has lawyer Ben Affleck and alcoholic insurance man Samuel L. Jackson having a minor accident on the freeway. Both are late for important appointments and Affleck makes the dire mistake of leaving Jackson stranded and accidentally leaving a hugely important document at the scene. Soon it is apparent that Jackson's tardiness to a court hearing was devastating as it becomes clear that wife Kim Staunton and their two young children are going to move west to get away from Jackson for good. Affleck's lost document creates a frenzied search to find Jackson and get the papers back, but we all know it is not going to be that easy. A wild and crazed cat and mouse game then starts as the road rage flows over into both men's lives. Now each are in a contest to destroy the other one before their enemy gets the chance. Fast-moving and quick-minded, "Changing Lanes" kept me interested until a somewhat contrived ending that really seemed to not fit in with the rest of the picture. Affleck and Jackson are both pretty good here and the supporting cast is strong enough to keep the momentum of the two leads moving. Not the best film ever made by a long-shot, but still not a bad little ride. Just be sure your ride does not hinder those around you. 4 stars out of 5.
Now, I'm not going to slap this movie on my Top 10 list or say it deserves
an Oscar nod, like many critics have exclaimed, but I will say it's
something different. First of all, it's real. Not an artificial
shoot 'em up or disaster flick. This is a film about the human struggle.
There's no violence or sex, and if it weren't for about 7 uses of the "f"
word "Changing Lanes" could've easily earned a PG-13. So don't let the
R-rating fool you.
There are three main reasons why I checked out this movie: Samuel, L, Jackson. Needless to say, he's a terrific actor and worth seeing in whatever he does. He's one of my favorites, and he delivers another powerhouse performance, taking on a role somewhat different from his recent roles: he plays an average Joe. We're introduced to his character, Doyle Gibson, who's a very nice guy simply haunted by mistakes in his past, one being alcoholism, which led to a divorce. And now he's attending AA meetings and buying a house for his two kids, hoping he will attain custody of them. Ben Affleck is good and charismatic. I didn't sympathize as much with his character, but that doesn't make him an antagonist. Neither characters are saints, nor are they sinners. That's good, because it's never completely effective to include characters who are entirely sympathetic. They're both mature adults, but they resort to juvenile acts of revenge in hopes that they can undo what happened. Sydney Pollack is great, as Affleck's egotistical father-in-law, proving his talents in front of the camera are just as fine as his talents behind the camera. I wanted to see more of the beautiful Amanda Peet, but she only has approximately 7 minutes of screen time. So I'm guessing that topless scene I heard mentioned didn't make it to the final cut. Oh, well. William Hurt, who seems to do a movie every 5 years, unfortunately has a small, thankless role as an alcohol counselor.
The script is well-written, and the film is a lot more character-driven than ones of recent years. I loved that scene in the bar where Sam Jackson sits in a lonely bar, listening in on two white guys badmouthing Tiger Woods. He lashes back with a terrific monologue, and later ends up punching them out. Some directors would've cut that scene out, overly concerned about the film's pacing, but I'm glad this time that wasn't the case. However, the ending seems a little fake. It's just too happy for its own good. But that's the only element of the movie I found forced.
My score: 7 (out of 10)
Changing Lanes is much more complex than the trailer leads you to believe. From the preview, you'd think it is an action fan's over-revved, simple-minded revenge thriller with lots of vehicular mayhem. Believe it or not, it does more peeling back of the layers of insulation of the affluent/powerful end of the social spectrum than any film I have seen lately. (--And not in the way the disappointingly too-pat-to-downright-absurd 'John Q' did, either.)
It's a film noir, and one of the darkest at that, full of despair, cynicism and scathing revelations about human nature. It seems to say-- or really, and this is a major distinction, to be about characters some of whom believe-- that we all make deals of personal expedience with Morality, that no one escapes life formation uncompromised and therefore able to comment on or judge anyone else's choices or actions. It's the old amoral, nihilistic/relativistic universe routine, which says concepts of fairness, justice or morality are quaintly irrelevant, that stuff just keeps happening, always has and always will, que sera sera.
My favorite scene, which was revolting and ugly and creepy as anything in any horror film you can name, is when Affleck sits down in a fine restaurant to discuss with his wife the morality of the situation he has been sucked into and is getting in deeper by the hour. He recognizes rightly that his game of oneupmanship, and win-at-any-cost has gotten insanely out of control. He is beginning to question it all, everything in his life. He comes to his wife for solace, direction, insight, a hint of moral rectitude, any help she can offer. She helps him, alright-- by saying she knows he does dishonest things (like having an affair with a woman at the office, which up until she springs that, he thought was his little secret) and that she could have had an honest husband, if that was all she wanted. --Why would she make a scene over an infidelity and risk interrupting the flow of her resources, anyway, she asks. He splits the dinner, dazed and even more desperate. In the next scene we witness him doing more of those very things he has just been having moral anguish over. (Maybe he can't recognize the feel of moral anguish at first.)
The Affleck character has a tremendous amount at stake, courtesy a pretty nifty plot hook, that keeps him up to some very dirty tricks. Sure, he doesn't want to risk interrupting the flow of his resources, either. But I think it's clear that the real reason he keeps doing crummy things is because he is a man compulsively drawn to the rewards of a destructive mode of behavior. Others gamble or drink or eat too much. Affleck works the system, lying, cheating, and treating all people like garbage. That's his high, his inescapable need. He can't quit. (Late in the film, he agrees to hire an idealistic young intern because, he laughs uncontrollably to himself, he wants to see what the intern's optimism and altruism looks like after 5 years of hard weathering by his no-rules-in-life employer.) Affleck is sick, and while he finally recognizes that sickness, he resigns himself to keep doing the same thing because, as his boss tells himself, he is willing to believe he has done more good than harm at the end of the day. The Affleck character's motivations for being extra bad, in the episode of his life we glimpse here, are strong enough to keep Changing Lanes from being just another American psycho study; it's easy to believe we could turn Affleck, given a similar circumstance in our life.
The ending is a somewhat forced positive one, but not nearly as much a sell out as is usually the case with a made-by-committee major commercial film. I give the whole enterprise 8.5 out of 10 stars.
I imagined this was going to be one film from the previews I'd seen, but in reality it turned out to be another - a far more subtle experience than I had expected. A lot of the people in the packed theatre where I saw it apparently expected that other film too; they seemed disappointed when they'd left - they'd probably been expecting yer basic escalating violence, with us cheering for Jackson as the good guy and Affleck as the bad. Not a black and white movie (no pun intended), more of a karma sort of thing, with the two main characters learning from each other in ways they never realized they would (or needed to). And heavy-handedness is nowhere to be seen. Kudos for that alone.
This movie was surprisingly good, but fans of car chase sequences and
the like will be extremely disappointed. The acting and directing is
expertly carried out, with special praise to Ben Affleck as Gavin
Banek. Changing Lanes actually explores more depth into the main
characters, and how their lives will change, either for better or
worse, rather than just dealing with pure and simple 'road rage'.
Samuel L. Jackson was well appointed as Doyle Gipson, and portrays his part well. One character's next move to destroy the other makes compelling viewing, and we can actually feel some sympathy for them, as we see both their emotional and compassionate side.
The story flows well as we are drawn into Banek and Gipson's desire to cause pain and hurt, not giving any thought to others who maybe affected by what they are doing. Changing Lanes is not a violent film as such, it simply explores the aspects of revenge in what could be a true-to-life measure. This is what makes it an entertaining and gripping movie that proved a winner for myself, and should do for many other film fans.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I want to start off by saying I can completely understand how viewers
felt this movie was dull and lifeless. After the adrenaline-pumping
portrait of road rage that the marketing department projected for this
movie in its previews, it does fall completely short of expectations.
Yet the true Changing Lanes was much more subtle and humanistic than it was meant to be. Street scenes are painted with a damp, dingy gray color. The music is spare, thin, and mostly bleak. The two main protagonists are people who are difficult to like, though Samuel Jackson plays a more sympathetic character, victimized not just by a smug lawyer, but by a history of alcoholism that has resulted in the disintegration of his family and of his life.
What I appreciated the most about the series of events in this movie is that manifested rage that this movie cashed in on turned out to be quite believable. The characters lashed out at one another, but often withdrew into a sort of introspective horror for what they had done. They were motivated to do bad things, but they were not bad people.
The ending, perhaps, was a bit too pat, perhaps attempting to assuage viewers who had just sat through 90 minutes of ugliness, but it didn't sit that badly with me, and I enjoyed Affleck's drifting speech about the girl on the beach in the end. This movie wasn't perfect, but it had a consistent style, an appropriately low-key but still "edgy" soundtrack, and an interesting exploration of two people who were arguably closer to losers than heroes; yet they were interesting due to their flaws.
If you've seen the preview for this movie, try to forget you ever saw it and instead enjoy the considerably less glamorous movie that Changing Lanes turned out to be.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
While Changing Lanes won't probably make it to my personal top-something
favorite movies list, it was nevertheless a solid film, sufficiently
different from the Hollywood cliche majority of the genre to be
The managed to keep my attention from waning, and the ethical questions
raised forced me to do a bit of thinking.
I might not be a strict enough movie "critic", since I tend to forgive--overlook, even--a number of flaws, as long as they do not outweigh the good sides of a film. So yes, it does have a few rather unconvincing bits [***POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT***] (first and foremost, I can't see why go and bankrupt somebody after only one attempt at, uhm, reconciliation) [***END OF SPOILER***], but if you disregard them, suspending your disbelief for a while, you can really enjoy the movie. It grips you, even though the action doesn't rush at a breakneck speed; and thank goodness that it doesn't, because that is why the movie stands out from the crowd. (As for those IMDb posters who considered that boring: it wasn't. I'm really sorry for you guys, if you really need to be bombarded with adrenaline to enjoy a film.) Changing Lanes is "a personal-vendetta thriller with a difference": instead of a steady escalation of anger and violence, constantly augmented by the revengeful side of man's nature--as is usually the case in I-hold-a-grudge-against-you-and-vice-versa movies--we see it moderated now and again by the other, more human side of these two guys, neither of whom is really wicked or degenerated. This is where what I see as the strength of this film lies--and what some other posters considered the source of implausibility: the apparent inconsistency of the actions the two protagonists take. True, they are inconsistent, but it is because there are two strong, contradictory forces at play. Even if the movie exaggerates things a little, it still gets my respect for avoiding one-sidedness. We human beings are, as a matter of fact, pretty erratic creatures, says the movie. And given the right circumstances, we can be really nasty, too, though we'd never suspect ourselves of that.
[***POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT***] And the ending? Sure, so things might have ended, well, more grimly. But does it really spoil the movie that much? I'd say, rather, that it simply rounds up the whole idea of the film, which is not utterly pessimistic, and definitely isn't judgmental. Granted, in a very good commentary-like scene towards the end, Affleck's character laughs in the rookie lawyer's face when the latter says that men are by nature good; but the film doesn't say we are incurably bad, either, and the ending only adds to that. By the way, I don't think it is all that nice-and-happy and doesn't fit the rest of the picture; the "better" side of the struggling Affleck, the one which comes out on top, is never really concealed earlier in the movie, while for Jackson things are still rather open-ended--though I've got to say that he deserved at least that much. [***END OF SPOILER***]
The acting is really fine and convincing, the photography interesting, the soundtrack doesn't particularly stun, but doesn't irritate, either. My recommendation: do see this film if you have a chance. 7/10.
I did something this time I've rarely done before: see what the
'professional' critics said before I formulated my own words. And it
might be the last time I ever do this. For whatever 'critics' give us
in terms of a preview of a movie we haven't seen yet, they're basically
a bunch of full of it snobs with a POV none of us have and none of us
Why go off on such a tirade about these riffraff? Because they chew up the ending - the ending to this flick which is the one good thing about it. Critics, you'll realise sooner or later, are heartless nerds. They have no souls. They don't go to the movies for the same reasons we do; to them it's a job; to us it's a life; we have a life; they do not.
So don't believe them on this one. The ending is good - very good. When we saw it we yelped for joy. It came so unexpected and it was so brilliantly orchestrated, you wanted to join in a standing ovation.
And the ending is what makes the movie. This is no action thriller, no Michael Douglas 'watch me unravel at the seams and have some fun with the destruction and chaos'. This is a movie with a purpose, with hope - and you might not see it at first, but that's not your fault: the movie makers are toying with you. For your own benefit.
A definite keeper. A sure winner. Music by Bob Marley.
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