Changing Lanes (2002) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Two men have a minor auto accident on their way to urgent court dates. The cavalier rich guy (Ben Affleck) signs a blank check and leaves the poor guy (Samuel L Jackson) stranded with a flat tire. As he drives off, he says "better luck next time". unfortunately, Mr Rich Snob left behind a critical file, a power of attorney that he must show the court in order to keep himself and his partners out of jail.

NUDITY REPORT

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The poor guy is devastated by his failure to show up for court. He loses custody of his kids. So he decides to use the file to hurt the rich guy. In retribution, the rich guy lays on the pressure to get the file back, making the poor guy the victim of computer manipulations that render him completely penniless, as well as various other pranks that cause him to be arrested and cuffed in front of his children. The two men then engage in a full-fledged vendetta.

If this sounds like a completely lame Hollywood premise to you, you are correct. Yet something went right along the way. Perhaps relating to some kind of reverse karma from having made so many bad movies from good premises, this time Hollywood made a good movie with a stinker premise. Just when you think it couldn't get any lamer, and the characters couldn't get any more cardboard, the film makes an about-face.

DVD info from Amazon

Commentary by director Roger Michell
The Making of Changing Lanes
Deleted and Extended Scenes
Alternate Endings
A Writer's Perspective Featurette
Widescreen anamorphic format, 2.35

The rich guy starts to re-examine his life in many ways, not just as it relates to his overreaction against this poor guy. The poor guy realizes that he's not really a victim so much as a guy who makes himself a victim because he is willing to let external circumstances get out of control when it is not necessary to do so. And we see that both men are complex, real individuals, as good as they are bad, neither saints nor sinners, but just guys who do hateful things and regret doing hateful things. Then they despise themselves just enough to see that they don't have to despise themselves at all, and the plot moves elegantly into naturalistic drama. Well, almost. Hollywood is Hollywood, so there are some dramatic cinematic flourishes, but you will be genuinely surprised at how it all works out. 

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: three and a half stars. Ebert 4/4, Berardinelli 3/4, filmcritic.com 4.5/5

The People Vote ...

  • with their dollars: budget $45 million, domestic gross $66 million
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is about a B-, give or take. I really didn't like the first half, which was the same old Hollywood bullshit. I almost fell asleep at the sheer predictability of it all. And then the screenwriters pulled a fast one - they said - "What if real people, reasonable grown-up men with consciences, got into this predicament? How would they get out?" And the film ended intelligently and compassionately.

I regret to report to my fellow worshippers of Samuel L that, although he does his usual fine job, he is completely serious, not very cocky, and mostly subdued.

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