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"Changing Lanes"

Directed by Roger Michell ("Notting Hill").
Written by Chap Taylor and Michael Tolkin.
Starring Ben Affleck and Samuel L. Jackson.
Release Year:  2002 
Review Date:  4/17/02 


The list of Bellview Rules is unwritten, but one of them is to try and see as many Samuel L. Jackson films as possible; the man can do it all. 

“Changing Lanes” marks a departure from Jackson's profanity-spewing characters of the last ten years; here, his good father Doyle Gipson is simply a good man that is having a bad day.  How bad?  Ask Gavin Banek (Ben Affleck), a newly-minted partner at a New York City law firm that crosses paths with Gipson when the two are driving on the FDR to separate but equally important meetings in town.  When their cars collide, Banek loses an important file while the two are exchanging insurance information and that sets the ball rolling for a movie that deals mostly in moral standards and revenge.

Even though much of “Changing Lanes” is given away in its preview, the scenes that fill up the actions in-between are very well done, and all of this is due to the lead performances.  I don't think Affleck has had to act much in the last five years, to be honest; as I go through his filmography, it can mostly be characterized as “show up, look good, get the girl, and if possible, shoot somebody.”  But, in “Boiler Room”, “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” (playing an alter ego which let him make fun of his bad roles) and here, I've really liked his work.  In “Changing Lanes”, his lawyer goes back and forth over the issues of a case he is working on closing while dealing with a wife (Amanda Peet) that seems to have other interests in mind and a mistress (former Oscar nominee Toni Collette) that is just too good for him.  But, just watching his eyes this time around, I got the impression that his character was thinking, or considering, or plotting, or regretful.  Remember, his eyes usually say “Yeah, I'm gonna bag her later!”, so this is a change.

And, once again, Jackson is great.  Whenever things go badly for him—especially in the scenes with his wife (Kim Staunton, who is magnificent as well) or his creditors—you can just see him burning up inside, and while he keeps his emotions in physical check with the wife, they get a little out of control with those that he doesn't call family.

I also liked the way the film was shot--the cinematography went out of focus during many of these scenes, especially ones where Banek or Gipson weren't very focused in their actions.  Did you notice that?  When Gipson walks out of the courtroom early in the film, he wanders through a waiting area while he wonders about his life and what will happen next...but, later, when he decides that he really should hold onto that file that Banek lost, the shot of him rummaging through a trash can is crystal-clear.  Also, the support given by a profane Sydney Pollack and Collette is very good...and, dear God, even Peet as Banek's wife is good in her two scenes as well.

I thought this was going to be pedestrian, but in fact it was pretty strong.  Chalk this one up mostly to great performances.

Rating:  $9.00 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09