Changing LanesOverview -
Modern society draws lines between right and wrong, good and evil, rage and redemption. A moment of self absorption and a spark of anger will cause the two men to cross them. As the battle of wills escalates, both lives are changes forever. Samuel L. Jackson and Ben Affleck star in a provocative and gripping drama that exposes the best and worst in all of us.
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
Be honest: there have been a number of times when you’ve wanted to clobber the holy hell out of a fellow driver who cut you off, or drove too slow, causing you to be late. Most of us dismiss these wonderful people who we find so rude and self centered with an ironic hand gesture or the honking of a horn, but there is the occasional report of road rage situations going much further, to the point that drivers attack each other, or the other’s property. These heat of the moment actions, violent or otherwise, are never justifiable against the minor “wrongdoing” one feels has occurred, while their repercussions can ultimately be life changing for all parties involved. All because someone didn’t look where they were merging.
Such an overreaction to a minor mistake is the premise of Roger Michell's 'Changing Lanes.'
While on his way to a child custody court date, recovering alcoholic Doyle Gipson (Samuel L. Jackson) gets in a fender bender with lawyer Gavin Banek (Ben Affleck), who is on his way to a hearing. While Gipson wants to do the proper method of exchanging information, Banek doesn’t feel it is worth his time, and leaves Gipson stranded. What Banek doesn’t know is that he accidentally dropped an important file for his case at the scene, one which Gipson is now in possession of.
When Gipson's delay arriving to the court costs him his children, who will now move to Oregon with his ex-wife Valerie (Kim Staunton), the file becomes a bit of a game between these two men, who now have nothing to gain, but everything to lose. Banek’s partners (Richard Jenkins and the late Sydney Pollack) cannot afford to lose this case, which they will if the file isn’t in the judge’s hands by the end of the day. With tensions flaring and the stakes rising with every passing minute, will either Gipson or Banek back down, or will each keep pushing the envelope in this game of revenge?
'Changing Lanes' has a unique idea, with the evolution of a small incident growing into a life changing ordeal, with every action raising the bar still further. The problem is that this idea is executed so sloppily that it removes any sympathy for these characters, or believability for their respective situations. I doubt there is any human being out there with as few conflict resolution skills as either Banek or Gipson.
The cast puts out a fairly decent overall performance, with Jackson providing some nice dramatic (possibly over-dramatic) chops, and the pair of Jenkins and Pollack stealing every scene they're in. Then again, they’re stealing the scenes from Affleck, who makes it so easy by providing the most forgettable performance in the film, despite being the lead character. Even Toni Collette, with the minor role of another lawyer in the firm and Banek’s extra-marital fling, outperforms Affleck.
The entire anything you can do, I can do better theme in the film begins to get a bit old, as both Banek and Gipson begin to regret their actions, but continue to pursue larger taunts and actions against each other. This escalation of aggression by two seemingly well-mannered gentlemen from very different backgrounds feels forced, with every action having to top the previous, making the film a bit predictable, which also ruins any tension the film was trying to build. Eventually, both men seek help, from sponsors or religion, but always decide against anything other than the furthering of the chaotic mess they are perpetuating, leading me to believe that they only sought out help as they felt defeated, rather than feeling that they were in the wrong.
The film also feels a bit stuck in the 1980's, despite filming in 2001. Sure, the film was made before texting became mainstream (and thank goodness, as "zomg, i wnt my paprs back" or "lolz, u lse. bttr lck nxt time" isn’t exactly enticing dialogue), but the fact that the film ignores the existence of the internet, which, last time I checked, was a dominant source for communication between people, the spreading of malicious comments about others, and tough guy flamewars, which Banek and Gipson would both quite obviously revel in.
'Changing Lanes' may be an interesting commentary on the selfishness of mankind, where even ten selfless seconds can change another man’s life. It's also a solid statement about karmic retribution. It just isn't a good film, as it tries to shove these beliefs down our throats in a less than veiled manner, with characters that we couldn't care less about.
'Changing Lanes' probably isn't on too many "high-def wish lists," but the film has a great look on this AVC MPEG-4 encoded Blu-ray. It's sure to please fans of the film.
The filming style for 'Changing Lanes' is very much in your face and confrontational, which is represented by much of the film being shown through very tight close up shots. Naturally, these shots look absolutely gorgeous, from the very first post-credits shot. The finest of details in Jackson or Affleck's faces pop right off the screen, as do any objects that are placed in the foreground of the image.
The print has a bit of random dirt present, and a natural grain level that isn’t smudged out by DNR. There are some noisy shots, as well as some uglier moments, as in a few scenes where skin tones can take on a purple tint. Another ugly element concerns a few late backgrounds that flicker in their brightness rapidly in single shots, which was very distracting. Another interesting issue is with the black levels in this very colorful and bright film, as they can be a bit soft, and have a blueish tinge. 'Changing Lanes' isn’t perfect, by any means, but this catalog title does shine where many fall flat.
The audio for 'Changing Lanes' is far less solid than the video. Presented in a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless track, the film has a very inconsistent (to the point I’d call it a wee bit bi-polar) sound mix, with a few bright spots mixed in along the way.
The rear speakers don't receive anywhere near the utilization that they should, as numerous crowded, busy scenes have a front heavy sound, keeping the film two dimensional rather than immersing the viewer in the movie. The funny thing is that numerous outdoors shots, especially any that have traffic in the background (or foreground for that matter), are absolutely loaded with ambiance and atmospheric effects, as cars whiz by (with some great, severely underused motion effects), and random generic city sounds are clear, while any indoor shots seem as though there are only two people in the entire building.
The bass level for the film is very tame and under-emphasized, as it never kicks it up a notch, not even for the pair of car crashes. The sound is fairly even throughout the film, though one particular back and forth sequence (by phone) has a light feedback sound on one end, but not the other, which was very distracting, as was the occasional unnatural emphasis pop in some lines performed by Affleck. This is a respectable track, but it is merely average.
The entire supplement package from the DVD release of 'Changing Lanes' has been ported over to this Blu-ray release.
- Audio Commentary - With director Roger Michell. This track has some gaps in it, and even when there is coverage, Michell isn't very in depth, as he describes the on-screen action a bit with a very slow pace. I enjoyed the moments where he discussed working with the cast (especially his kind words regarding Pollack), and found his discussion of how to handle the WTC buildings interesting. (The buildings were at first removed from the film, then reinserted as they felt they shouldn’t have to remove them.) This track is a bit poor, but includes the gem, "Children are really hard to work with, 'cuz they're not really actors, they’re people...". I know many people have a distaste for Affleck, but to say he's not a person, that’s just going too far. Unless Michell was saying Affleck is as robotic as his acting would sometimes infer. Oh noes!!!
- Making Of Featurette (SD, 15 min) - I got a kick out of the “announcer guy” transitions in this oddly misnamed feature, and nothing else. This isn’t as much a "Making Of" feature as it is a collection of clips to try to sell the film, mixed in with interviews from cast and crew. There are no real behind the scenes shots, nor look at the vehicular stunts that play an important part in the film, as this is more a commercial than it is a feature.
- A Writer's Perspective Featurette (SD, 6 min)
- A look at the writing for the film, mostly through clips of the film. This feature does a nice job of analyzing a few scenes, providing some depth to their meaning, though as a whole, this extra is again a bit self promotional.
- Deleted/Extended Scenes (SD, 10 min) - Two scenes cut from the film are presented here, including an interview with another job candidate, and another that is the polar opposite, with Gipson having a meeting with his boss about his performance/job status. These scenes would have slowed the film down far too much, so their omission is welcome. The extended scene involves Banek's time in the confession booth. This scene defines his affair, his views on the world, and his inability to accept responsibility for his actions.
- Theatrical Trailer (HD) - A trailer for the film presented in high def.
'Changing Lanes' may be a guilty pleasure for some, but it certainly isn’t for me. This preposterous look at the base elements of humanity by means of a day long penis measuring contest wears a bit too thin too fast. This Blu-ray sports very good video qualities, average audio, and the entire DVD supplement package (though with no new extras). I just don’t see this film having a very high replay value, as it’s not even able to maintain tension the first time around, let alone through multiple viewings.
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