Changing Lanes never appealed to me during its theatrical run and I blame that entirely on Paramount’s marketing department. The commercials were not enticing in the least and quite frankly made me forget the film in a matter of minutes after viewing them. With the release of the DVD, I was willing to give Changing Lanes a try and am I glad I did. Propelled by a dynamic script and stellar performances, Changing Lanes gives life to an urban drama which tests the ideals of two men on the brink of insanity.
T…e story centers around Gavin Banek (Ben Affleck), a corporate attorney who realizes he takes advantage of others but has never confronted himself about the moral implications of the life he lives. While trying to rush to a court appointment, he is involved in a fender-bender accident on the FDR with Doyle Gipson (Samuel L. Jackson), also on his way to court but as a defendant in a child custody battle. This encounter appears harmless at first, outside of Gavin wanting to pay for the damage in cash and Doyle demanding to do the right thing and exchange insurance information. But when Gavin realizes he left Doyle with a vital court document to win his case and keep himself out of jail, his skirmish with Doyle to retrieve the document by close of business crescendos in a series of violent and disturbing incidents.
What makes Changing Lanes work is the lack of interaction between the two title characters. Their thirst for revenge on each other can never be called into question because they won’t let it by refusing to take the time to discuss their ordeal in an orderly fashion. As their lives spiral out of control, the animosity towards each other is fueled even more and the actions that materialize are a direct result of it. It is only when the characters cease to deny their problems and confront each other that the film draws its conclusion.
If I had to name another movie Changing Lanes reminded me of it would be Falling Down. The writing, camera angles, pace, music, characters and performances all are identical between the two films. Chances are if you liked Falling Down then Changing Lanes is right up your alley.
While Changing Lanes is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, I never felt as if the surround channels were utilized where they could have been. The two accident scenes in the film relied on the front three channels and disregarded the rears almost entirely. During the rest of the film, the surrounds were used to provide some background noise to the city and in these scenes they worked well.
Since Changing Lanes is a dialogue driven film, make sure your center channel is set up correctly before giving it a spin. More often than not, the center channel will be the only active speaker during the presentation. Thankfully the mix is well-balanced and nothing ever overpowers the dialogue.
Many of the shots in Changing Lanes are shot in dimly lit areas of New York, including several rain scenes. The 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer handles these scenes beautifully as I never had to strain my eyes to make out details. The director employs several up-close camera angles and varying instances of zoom that are also presented with the utmost detail. Ultimately, Changing Lanes has a fine transfer which could only shine better if the film were shot with brighter colors to show-off.
For some reason I expected an alternate ending, but instead the deleted scenes include ‘Interview With Gordon Pinella’, a scene where Gavin interviews a third candidate for the entry-level lawyer position, and ‘Artie Crenshaw’, a confrontation between Doyle and his boss. One extended scene is the ‘Confessional’, which would have made the movie drag and add unnecessary back-story to Gavin’s character.
There are two featurettes included, one of which is a pure marketing gimmick and the other an insightful commentary behind the brains of the film. The Making of Changing Lanes is anything but what the name implies. Interview after interview only described the basic plot of the movie and talked about the characters. There was very little actual making-of material so I was disappointed by it. On the other hand, The Writer’s Perspective was a great look behind the thoughts of writer Michael Tolkin and screenwriter Chap Taylor and their intentions with the film.
Closing out the extras are a full-length commentary with director Roger Michell and the theatrical trailer, presented in Dolby Digital 5.1.
I thoroughly enjoyed Changing Lanes and plan on recommending it the next time someone asks what’s good to rent. It won’t make your audio setup jump or blow you away with incredible visuals, but it will leave you satisfied in realizing you’ve watched a well written and acted film. At the very least, you’ll think twice about swapping insurance should a fender-bender interrupt your plans someday.
Special Features List
- Deleted Scenes
- Alternate Ending
- Director’s Commentary
- Writer’s Perspective Featurette
- Theatrical trailer