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Roger Michell
Ben Affleck, Samuel L. Jackson, Toni Collette, Amanda Peet, Sydney Pollock, William Hurt, Dylan Baker
Chap Taylor, Michael Tolkin

One Wrong Turn Deserves Another

Box Office:
Budget $45 million.
Opening weekend $17.128 million on 2613 screens.
Domestic gross $66.79 million.
Rated R for language.

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Surround
French Dolby Surround

Runtime: 98 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 9/10/2002

• Audio Commentary With Director Roger Michell
• “The Making of Changing Lanes
• Deleted and Extended Scenes
• “A Writer’s Perspective” Featurette
• Trailer

Score soundtrack

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Changing Lanes (2002)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

In Changing Lanes, we get a uniquely 21st century thriller, as it concentrates on the aftereffects of a car wreck caused due to harried, hectic lifestyles and too much multi-tasking. The film focuses on two guys who seem very different. On one hand, we meet Gavin Banek (Ben Affleck), a successful young lawyer who serves as a partner in the firm headed by his father-in-law (Sydney Pollack). He also manages a charity fund that gets that power after the death of its benefactor. This causes problems when that man’s granddaughter Mina (Jennifer Dundas) argues that he doesn’t possess the legal right for this.

On the other hand, we get to know Doyle Gipson (Samuel L. Jackson). A recovering alcoholic with a small-time job shilling insurance on the phone, he wants to buy a house in hopes that this will entice his estranged wife Valerie (Kim Staunton) to remain in New York with their two kids Stevie (Akil Walker) and Danny (Cole Hawkins).

Gavin and Doyle meet when they crash on the FDR Bridge. Both men need to head to court, and to expedite matters, Gavin offers a blank check to Doyle to cover repair costs. However, Doyle wants to do things “the right way” and won’t take a quick fix. Due to his rush, Gavin ultimately just leaves Doyle on the bridge and tells him, “Better luck next time”.

Doyle arrives at his court appointment too late, and the judge has already ruled in favor of his wife. In the meantime, Gavin’s court date gets affected when he realizes that he accidentally left his papers back on the bridge. This package includes the documentation that proves the law firm has the right to manage the charity fund, so without these materials, Gavin’s in serious trouble.

As luck would have it, Doyle kept the papers. Actually, he threw them away right after the accident, but when he receives a frantic phone call from Gavin, he retrieves the documents from the trash. Thus starts a revolving story of escalating vengeance. Each man alternately tries to rectify matters, but the other one does something provocative and the cycle starts again. The rest of the movie follows this one very difficult day and watches as its leads struggle to get what they need.

On the surface, Changing Lanes appears to be little more than a piece of Hollywood “high concept” fluff. Perhaps beneath the surface that’s all it is, but the film works very well nonetheless. Much of the credit goes to its leads, both of whom seem perfect for their parts. Affleck pulls off the weaselly lawyer bit nicely, but he also adds a solid layer of depth to the role. Few pull off righteous indignation as well as Jackson, so he brings a sense of frustration and deep-seated anger to Doyle. As with Affleck, Jackson also ensures that the character doesn’t turn into a cartoon, and he contributes depth to the personality.

Director Roger Michell’s only prior hit came from 1999’s Notting Hill. Based on that romantic comedy, I wouldn’t expect him to produce a tight thriller, but he does that ably with Lanes. He creates a very tense atmosphere that pervades the movie. Even when the onscreen action slowed, I still maintained that knot in my stomach as I waited for the next shoe to drop. Michell builds the pressure in a delicious way that makes all of those turns work well.

Changing Lanes falls far short of cinematic greatness, and it includes more plot holes than I’d like. For example, the lead characters ignore a completely obvious solution to their battle. However, the film provides a nicely exciting and lively experience that never degenerates into a simple revenge fantasy. The movie appears taut and compelling but doesn’t become a simple mean-spirited ride. A popcorn flick with some teeth, I definitely enjoyed Changing Lanes.

The DVD Grades: Picture B+ / Audio B / Bonus B

Changing Lanes appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. With the exception of a few modest problems, Lanes looked excellent.

Sharpness usually seemed solid. Some wider shots came across as a little fuzzy at times, but those occurred fairly rarely. Most of the movie appeared distinct and well defined. Jagged edges and moiré effects created no concerns, but I did notice some moderately prominent edge enhancement at times. I also witnessed some light speckles; otherwise, the movie seemed clean and fresh.

Colors seemed stunning. The film presented a surprisingly broad and varied palette, and these came across with tremendous accuracy and vividness. The movie veered into some stylized tones at times, but the colors always really jumped off the screen; I was totally unprepared for the clarity of the hues. Black levels also seemed deep and rich, while shadow detail was appropriately heavy but not overly thick. Lose the edge enhancement - which probably caused the minor softness - and this would be a stellar transfer. As it stands, Lanes offered a slightly flawed but still positive image.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Changing Lanes displayed no significant flaws, but it seemed no better than pretty good due to a lack of sonic ambition. For most of the movie, the soundfield demonstrated a fairly heavy forward emphasis. This broadened somewhat as the film progressed, and it included a few scenes that used the surrounds to good effect. For example, one sequence in which sprinklers go off in an office provided nicely convincing use of the rears. From the front, the mix featured very good ambience and stereo presence for the music, but the lack of much more than general reinforcement from the surrounds seemed a little weak.

Audio quality appeared fine throughout the movie. Speech came across as natural and distinct, with no problems related to edginess or intelligibility. Music sounded bright and vivid and showed nice dynamic range. Effects appeared crisp and lively, and the entire package boasted solid depth. Bass response seemed tight and lacked any boomy qualities. Overall, the soundtrack of Changing Lanes probably could have been a little more involving, but it still seemed satisfactory for the movie.

On this DVD of Changing Lanes, we find a decent little roster of supplements. Up first we get an audio commentary from director Roger Michell, who offers a running, screen-specific track. Michell proves to be fairly chatty; a moderate number of empty spaces occur, but these never seem too problematic. In general, Michell provides a modestly interesting view of the film. He tends to concentrate on elements like sets, locations, and the weather. Some insight comes along with this, and the commentary remains listenable at all times, but it never becomes much more than that. Overall, Michell puts forth a fairly mediocre track

Next we discover The Making of Changing Lanes, an exceedingly superficial featurette about the film. The 14 minute and 58 second program offers the usual mix of film clips, shots from the set, and interviews. We hear from director Michell as well as actors Ben Affleck, Samuel L. Jackson, Sydney Pollack and Toni Collette. A few of the behind the scenes bits seem briefly interesting, but the vast majority of the piece heavily concentrates on promotional aspects. We mostly watch snippets from the film, and the interviews either tell us about the story and the characters or inform us how great everyone is. This is an utterly banal program that you probably will want to skip.

A Writer’s Perspective offers comments from screenwriters Chap Taylor and Michael Tolkin. They provide some basic character insight and a few decent remarks about the movie’s themes. Unfortunately, the eight and a half minute program packs in too many film clips, so we don’t learn a whole lot along the way.

In addition to the film’s trailer - presented non-anamorphic 1.85:1 with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound - the DVD tosses in two deleted scenes and one extended scene. Offered non-anamorphic 2.35:1 with Dolby Surround 2.0 audio, each of these lasts between two minutes, 13 seconds and four minutes, 37 seconds, for a total of nine minutes, 30 seconds of footage. Of the cut sequences, one shows another job interview conducted by Gavin, and it allows him to demonstrate his thoughts about the deceased benefactor whose fund he supervises. The other offers more problems for Doyle, as his boss tries to fire him. The first might have been useful, since it humanizes Gavin a little, but the second needed to go; we see enough of Doyle’s issues, so we didn’t require more of that.

As for the extended scene, it features Gavin in the confessional. The extra material focuses on an issue we hear about elsewhere as well as Gavin’s desire to harm Doyle. Frankly, the footage makes Gavin look like a total psycho, so they made the right choice to lose it. The confessional scene seems dark enough as it stands, and this stuff might have turned the audience on him irreversibly.

Just a reminder: as always, Paramount provided English and French subtitles for the extras except the trailer. They continue to deserve praise for this, and someone needs to boot the other studios in the butt until they do so as well.

Changing Lanes won’t win any awards, but the movie provides a nicely taut and involving little thriller. Aided by a couple of compelling actors, the film maintains a tense pace and it remains lively and entertaining from start to finish. The DVD provides very good picture along with somewhat subdued but still solid sound and a fairly decent package of extras. Changing Lanes definitely merits a look.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.4375 Stars Number of Votes: 16
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