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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
English Dolby Digital TrueHD 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 98 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 5/19/2009

• 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 [Blu-Ray] (2002)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 24, 2009)

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 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 enjoyed Changing Lanes.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+ / Audio B / Bonus C+

Changing Lanes appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Overall, the transfer seemed satisfying.

Sharpness usually seemed solid. Some softness stemmed from photographic choices, as we’d see shots come in and out of focus. Obviously that was the result of the original production and not an issue with the transfer. However, a little edge enhancement meant wide shots could be slightly off. Nonetheless, the vast majority of the flick was concise and well-defined. No signs of jaggies or shimmering appeared, and source flaws were mild. I witnessed a few small specks but nothing more.

Colors seemed good. The movie veered into some stylized tones at times and tended to favor a chilly blue palette. Within that range, the hues were clear and lively. Black levels seemed deep and rich, while shadow detail was appropriately heavy but not overly thick. Lanes offered a slightly flawed but still positive image.

The Dolby Digital TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack of Changing Lanes displayed no significant concerns, 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.

Expect all the same supplements from the DVD. 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 moderately 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 15-minute 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 six 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, the disc tosses in two deleted scenes and one extended scene. 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.

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 Blu-ray provides very good picture along with somewhat subdued but still solid sound and a decent package of extras. Changing Lanes merits a look, and this Blu-ray brings it to life well.

To rate this film visit the original review of CHANGING LANES

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