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Moral Complexity Drives Changing Lanes

  • Holly McClure Movie Reviewer
  • 2002 3 Mar
  • COMMENTS
Moral Complexity Drives <I>Changing Lanes</I>
Changing Lanes - R

Best for: Mature teens and adults interested in a modern-day story of ethics.

What it's about: High-powered attorney Gavin Banek (Ben Affleck) is responsible for getting important papers to court, so he sets out in New York's rush-hour traffic and accidentally runs into Doyle Gipsen (Samuel Jackson). Doyle is on his way to divorce court, so he can argue for the right to see his kids and prevent them from moving out of state. Doyle's car is wrecked, so he asks for a ride to the courthouse. Gavin, in a hurry, leaves the scene, yelling, "Better luck next time!"

When Gavin presents his case, he realizes he left an important file at the scene of the accident. He's given until 5 p.m. to find Doyle and get it back, but when Gavin tracks Doyle down, Doyle refuses to give him the file. Tempers flare, leading to an all-out war between the two men that changes their lives forever. Toni Collette, Sydney Pollack, William Hurt and Amanda Peet also star.

The good: This is an interesting account of two men caught in desperate circumstances who, through the course of a day, discover just how far they will go to get revenge, discovering who they really are in the process.

I enjoyed this movie more than I thought I would because of Affleck and Jackson. The story is much bigger than two guys who get into an accident with each other. Jackson delivers his usual best. His "end-of-the-rope" portrayal is packed with honesty and accountability. But it was Affleck's surprisingly insightful portrayal of an upstart "on-the-rise" attorney who gets caught in an ethical dilemma that really pulls the story together.

I especially enjoyed the confrontations between Gavin and his wife (Amanda Peet). The moral and ethical battle that he wages with himself (and those who do business with him) throughout the long and destructive day gives the audience a glimpse at the darker side of human nature and a reality check on the "business ethics" practiced in our courts and society every day. I enjoyed the personal dilemmas and struggles each man faced because it bridged the gap between race, profession and social status. I likewise appreciated the fact that director Roger Michell didn't give us the typical Hollywood "shock-value" ending but instead chose to end the story in a positive, realistic and thought-provoking way that should make for great discussion with coworkers or friends.

I encourage every adult to see this movie (especially the 20-somethings) because it is a good reminder of where our society desperately needs to return: social manners, ethics, compassion for fellow man, being honest, forgiving, etc.

The not-so-good: The bad language is the biggest turnoff in this movie. The violence consists of a traffic accident, a computer thrown against a window and a couple of men hit in the face, but none of the scenes goes overboard or it gratuitous.

Offensive language or behavior: Several religious profanities as well as a few "F"-words and milder profanity.

Sexual situations: None.

Violence: The two men are angry at each other for different reasons and lash out in revenge (against each other and others) doing several things to make the other suffer (tires fall off a car, Doyle discovers he's bankrupt).

Parental advisory: The "R" rating is for language, adult themes and issues.

Bottom line: I highly recommend this movie because it deals with the ethical and moral dilemmas all of us face at some point in our lives. The best part about this story is that it forces each character to be accountable for their behavior and admit that they were wrong. It also has a strong message of redemption and forgiveness, and it shows how a little kindness goes a long way in righting wrongs in people's lives.