Changing Lanes
***.3 GM
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Affleck, Sydney Pollack, Toni Collette, Kim Staunton, Dylan Baker

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A ROLLER COASTER RIDE THROUGH THE HUMAN CONDITION.

That's the tagline I heard describing this film, and surprisingly enough, repeating it to my friends did not succeed in making them wish to see it. Needless to say, I was stunned, since I've long maintained the only thing missing from Magic Mountain was a bit more pathos. I was still determined to see it on my own, though, if for no other reason than how much the shot of Sam Jackson crushing a computer monitor and screaming "NOW IT DOESN'T!" viscerally pleased me.

Turns out to be a decent flick. The advertisements would lead you to believe that this is a pulse-pounding thriller in which Sam Jackson, as a man deeply wronged by a self-centered Ben Affhole character, goes off the deep end and wreaks havoc on his life, perhaps even boiling rabbits or something. The actual film is a bit more complicated than that, and much the better for it. It's the story of two people screwing their lives up in their own ways - Doyle (Jackson), a recovering alcoholic trying to repair his family life, and Gavin (Affleck), a hotshot lawyer who doesn't even realize his life is off-track - that come together by chance, and that random meeting turns both of their worlds all upside-turvy like.

Gavin pulls an asshole move and it comes back to haunt him, because then he suddenly needs a favor from Doyle, who was royally fucked over and needs to take out his frustrations on somebody, and who better then the asshole who fucked him? The main sticking point is this, though - even though Gavin drives off without leaving insurance or contact information, he DOES offer Doyle a blank check. I don't know about you, but a blank check from a rich honky will solve a lot of problems. Then again, you've got tax implications, and he's a lawyer, so he can find a way to screw you out of it. So Doyle's insistence on trying to "do things right" doesn't seem like that big a deal.

I'm a bit torn on Affleck these days. I started off liking him, because of "Good Will Hunting" and Kevin Smith movies. Then he started to annoy me due to sheer omnipresence, which tends to happen with most overexposed megastars. Yet when I actually watch him perform, I remember what it is I liked about him and can ignore the obnoxious "entertainment news" influence on my opinions. He's good here as a self-absorbed guy slowly realizing he's self-absorbed. Jackson is, of course, greatly entertaining as the down-on-his-luck father trying desperately to win back his wife's respect before she leaves town with his kids. Aside from being a slightly awkward Jedi in "Phantom Menace," I can't recall a less-than-enjoyable performance outta this guy.

So it's just two guys that need things from each other but are too angry and confused to figure out how to go about it without butting heads. It makes a good case about how random life can be without putting too many unbelievable coincidences together to ruin it.

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