Review: “Changing Lanes”

Roger Michell’s urban melodrama about two very different individuals whose lives interact and are forever changed by a simple traffic accident is an unusual beast. For the most part what’s here is very good – solid performances, a script which never substitutes style for substance, a well-paced unfolding to proceedings, and a simple and believable setup all combine to give the drama a more grounded realism than most Hollywood thrillers of this type.

Yet behind the tough “NYPD Blue” style cinematography and very watchable building power play, the usual contrived and somewhat conventional elements of this genre still ring through the grittier than usual window dressing.

Affleck, who lets face it hasn’t really been allowed to show off his acting chops, finally gets to do some good old fashioned drama again and certainly his best work since “Chasing Amy”. Jackson is somewhat lower key than his usual performances but it helps give the role a much more grounded sense of reality – and he proves he can underplay roles just as well as he can overplay them.

Collette and Pollack lend welcome support, never upstaging and yet an essential part of the mix. Baker has a small but sinister and almost laugh-inducing role as a man who can get things done, whilst even comic actress Amanda Peet as Affleck’s cool but determined wife shows how surprisingly good she can be given the right material.

As the story continues and each character leaves their morals, scruples, ethics and even the law behind to one-up the other guy, one has to wonder how far can this go but sadly just as things start to turn really nasty, the filmmakers seem to have chickened out and things begin to pull back – thus only giving us a fleeting glimpse at how desperate and dangerous one man can be when he’s being continually pushed to his limit by another.

The pace and eventual solution are entertaining, no question but not in a way that will leave a mark on your psyche that it could have had things continued on their original course. Its desperate to be a study of modern society and men, yet never gives us any real insight into either – nonetheless its a crackling good ride that is more upfront and believable than you may expect.