Changing Lanes

Bomb Rating: 

I have mixed feelings about this film, which isn't supposed to happen. See, a film about two guys who screw each other over after getting in a car wreck kind of amuses me. Unfortunately, believe it or not, I drive very calmly. Basically, I have the same rule for driving that I have for life: "Stay away from other people." Sure, driving is probably more conducive to crankiness than film, except that allowing oneself to become enraged by other drivers and acting on it can lead to death. Becoming enraged by bad films only leads to a few overpaid stars getting their feelings hurt and Ben Affleck constantly e-mailing me in capital letters that "MATT DAMON IS MY BEST BUDDY IN THE WORLD AND IF YOU DON'T LEAVE HIM ALONE I'LL HAVE MY BODYGUARD RUFUS KICK YOUR ASS!!"

"Changing Lanes" is too clever for its own good. The crash between Wall Street lawyer Gavin Banek (Ben Affleck) and insurance salesman Doyle Gibson (Samuel L. Jackson) happens just as Banek is trying to get to court and just as Gibson is trying to get to a custody hearing. Because of the crash, Gibson loses his custody hearing and Banek drops a folder which Gibson picks up after Banek drives off. Because Banek is the high-priced lawyer and Gibson is the down-on-his-luck, former alcoholic black man, we're supposed to feel sorry for Gibson even though Banek offers him a blank check for his troubles. Gibson refuses the check since he's on some kind of EST, self-actualization kick and wants to "do things right."

Unfortunately for Banek, he needs the folder or he might end up in jail. Somehow, driving around New York, he runs into Gibson again and gets his name. Then, each man starts doing bad things to the other. Banek pays to have Gibson's credit destroyed. Gibson removes the wheel bolts from Banek's Mercedes. First of all, it's not like Gibson, being a male, was going to get custody of his kids, so blaming Banek for it seems stupid. And besides, I thought New Yorkers were supposed to be all nice to each other now.

Banek's world is even more ridiculous. Director Roger ("Notting Hill") Michell couldn't have emphasized the tenuous nature of Wall Street ethics more if he had the law firm selling jars of World Trade Center dust on Ebay for thousands of dollars each. Banek's life is so devoid of meaning that even his wife (Amanda Peet) gets in on the act. She follows daddy's orders and gives Banek a speech on how silly things like morals and ethics should not keep him from having a good time, even if it means cheating on her. "Changing Lanes" made me want to change theaters.

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