Changing Lanes is a very enjoyable melodrama that keeps the viewer hooked until the last fifteen minutes. The film starts as Ben Affleck and Samuel L. Jackson turn a simple fender bender on FDR Drive in Manhattan into psychotic road rage. As the day wears on they set out to ruin each other’s lives through a campaign of dirty tricks, or as the movie’s tagline explains, “One wrong turn deserves another.” It’s a good premise, nicely acted by Affleck and Jackson, and well told by British director Roger Michell, whose work here is particularly surprising as his previous efforts haven’t been thrillers, but comedies (Notting Hill) and period drama (Persuasion). It’s familiar territory. 1993’s Falling Down breathes the same air as Changing Lanes in a story about a man pushed past his limit, and the consequences of his rage. Unlike Falling Down, Changing Lanes delves deeply into the reasons for the anger, and the characters don’t like what they see. Both Affleck and Jackson realize that they are more afraid of themselves, and what they have turned into, than each other. The movie remains strong until things start to fall apart near the end. Tacking on a happy Hollywood ending seriously undermines the power of this story.
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