There was a period of time when Ben Affleck was everywhere. From Kevin Smith movies to hosting SNL to starring in a stint of flicks that spanned a couple years, rarely was there a time that you went to the theater and were either watching him in a film or watching a trailer for one of his upcoming ones. Then he kind of just….disappeared. Smaller roles like Hollywoodland and Smokin’ Aces came about and even then those roles were minor. He’s started to appear once again in films, but for the most part the 2000-2002 film scape is where he reigned for years and Changing Lanes was a product of those years. While not universally acclaimed or the recipient of a huge box office draw, Changing Lanes nonetheless impressed audiences with its depth and superb acting, both on the part of Affleck as well as co-star Samuel L. Jackson.
Modern society draws lines between right and wrong, good and evil, rage and redemption. A moment of self absorption and a spark of anger will cause the two men to cross them. As the battle of wills escalates, both lives are changes forever. Samuel L. Jackson and Ben Affleck star in a provocative and gripping drama that exposes the best and worst in all of us.
After watching the decidedly crappy Paycheck, I didn’t hold out much hope for Changing Lanes…which may be why I was so surprised by it. It’s not an outstanding film or even flawless, but not only was the directing and cinematography fantastic in the film, but it also displayed the talents of Affleck and Jackson in such a way that you peg that as one of their best performances. So how did this film, if it’s driven by such talent, not get much spotlight? Well, it did fairly well at the box office, bringing in double its production budget in worldwide ticket sales, but quite honestly I never heard much about it. No one I knew had ever seen it despite it receiving solid critical reception and once it hit DVD it disappeared and faded. Even as a fan of both of the stars of the film, I never made any effort to see it.
So perhaps it was a combination of all of those things that I didn’t expect this film to exist. A little diamond in the rough if you were, the film starts off with a simple incident that escalates into a story that is both thrilling and occasionally absurd. Perhaps it’s those small elements of disbelief that the film causes you to feel that makes this a less-than-stellar film; by all accounts it’s a remarkable effort from all parties involved, but it’s hard to ignore some of the things that the two men do to one another all in the name of revenge. I guess that’s what’s so surprising, though; if it didn’t get taken as far as it did, it wouldn’t be such an enjoyable film to watch. In that regard I guess its fine to have a little bit of absurdity mixed in, as the film would never be taken to the heights it was otherwise.
What’s so good about this film is it relies on drama and tension rather than a sequence of action bits that make up the plot of the film. There is action, to be sure, but it doesn’t drive the film and instead it’s the performances that carry it along (as they should). Jackson is absolutely amazing in this role and after reading the consensus about the film online it appears that that is one element everyone agrees on, if nothing else. I also found Affleck to be particularly on his game here, portraying all of the character traits he’s known for in good fashion. As I said in a few reviews of films he’s been in, he’s a solid actor…he just gets saddled with scripts that don’t allow him to show it off much.
So how did this film go unnoticed? I honestly don’t know. Maybe it’s because it’s a relatively unassuming title and the most prestigious award it received as a Teen Choice Award for Ben Affleck (and he didn’t win!). It may also have to do with the films rating, which with an R rating maybe made it seem like a different film than it ended up being. Whatever the reason, I’m almost kind of glad that it wasn’t loudly proclaimed film, as it’s sometimes these lesser known films that become so enjoyable down the line.
Overall if you haven’t seen the film, for whatever reason, then I really do Recommend it. It’s not perfect by any means and there are some plot elements that may sit uneasy at first, but when all is said and done, this is not only a superbly acted film but it also looks great as well.
Of course I once again question how this film got pegged for Blu-ray release before a myriad of others in Paramount’s catalog, but hey…I can’t complain too much as this release awarded me the ability to finally see it. The disc arrives in a standard Elite Blu-ray case with plain grey disc art and a firmware upgrade insert. Menus are simple and easy to navigate.
The AVC encoded 2.38:1 video looks great, as you would expect from a 2002 film. The cinematography and color palette of this film really looks great at times and the sometimes moody visuals lend to the enjoyment of the film. The accompanying TrueHD 5.1 mix is a little less impressive, if only because as a thriller this film doesn’t exactly tack on a bunch of surround usage and LFE output, but it does spit out the dialogue from the center channels clean and clear. Also included is a standard English DD5.1 track as well as French and Spanish 2.0 tracks. Subtitles in English SDH, English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish are included as well.
Extras are the same from the original DVD release and include:
• Commentary: Commentary by director Roger Michell
• Featurette: The Making of Changing Lanes
• Featurette: A Writer’s Perspective
• Additional Scenes: 2 Deleted Scenes
• Additional Scenes: 1 Extended Scene
• Trailers: Theatrical Trailer HD
Overall this is a solid release for the film but since it adds absolutely nothing new to the package, upgrading to this release depends solely on your enjoyment of it. Recommended for those who don’t already own it; those who do can Skip It.
Changing Lanes arrives on Blu-ray on May 19th.