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Changing Lanes - Blu-ray DVD / drama DVD / thriller DVD review
CHANGING LANES Rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America curledupdvd.com rating: 4 stars
Featuring: Ben Affleck, Samuel L. Jackson, Kim Staunton, Toni Collette, Sydney Pollack
Director: Roger Michell Studio: Paramount
DVD release: 19 May 2009 Runtime: 99 min.
(1 disc)
Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, Subtitled, Widescreen, Blu-ray
DVD features: 1080p High Definition, Aspect ratio 2.35:1, Audio tracks (Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround - English; Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround - French, Spanish), Subtitles (English SDH, English, Spanish, French, Portugese), Commentary (dir. Roger Michell), The Making of Changing Lanes, A Writer's Perspective, Deleted/extended scenes, Theatrical trailer HD

How much of yourself do you have to sell out in order to become a high-powered lawyer? In Changing Lanes, an atypical drama that examines a serendipitous conflict between two men, a chance auto accident in New York City is the intersection of the paths of lawyer Gavin Banek (Ben Affleck) and Doyle Gipson (Samuel L. Jackson). Both are running late: Banek is supposed to be in court proving that an old man left power of attorney to his law firm. Gipson needs to be in court to argue for custody of his children. Banek leaves the scene of the accident even though Gipson wants to do the right thing and wait for the cops. Gipson's car is undrivable, and he's late for his court appearance. Banek makes his court date but has left an important document at the scene of the accident. This sets the stage for a series of quid pro quo attacks between the two.

Gipson's lateness for the court date enables his wife to follow through on her plans to leave for the West Coast with their boys. This inspires a shattered Gipson to hurt Banek, who is in big trouble with his firm if that document doesn't get delivered by the end of the day. And so it goes, back and forth, each striking back at the other, stretching the limits of their vindictive natures.

Most big-screen films would use the same beginning to culminate in a mindless smack-down drag-out, but Changing Lanes is not most big-screen films. Each of these characters has a believable background and motivation for how they act. Gipson is a recovering alcoholic, still in his first year of sobriety. His AA sponsor at one point tells him that booze isn't his drug of choice; it's chaos. Banek has recently made partner at his firm, and his bosses Walt (Richard Jenkins) and Stephen (Sydney Pollack) pressure him to fabricate the needed document, to be a team player. Banek's wife, Cynthia (Amanda Peet), puts similar pressure on him (her father is Stephen).

Changing Lanes tests these men's characters as they pit themselves against one another. Even as the stakes escalate and things get sticky for each of them, perhaps the death stroke is not in either of their natures. Gipson must evaluate why chaos seems to be attracted to him; Banek must rethink his reasons for getting into law and continuing to practice.

Changing Lanes is an excellent film and an excellent character study of two very different men. It examines the nature of conflict in one particular situation that brings to mind conflicts the viewer has in his own life.

The Blu-ray release of Changing Lanes is an excellent high-def picture and sound. Extras ported directly from the original DVD release include a making-of featurette, "A Writer's Perspective," and extended and deleted scenes. It's an overlooked film and well worth checking out.
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reviewed by Eric Renshaw
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