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Changing Lanes (2002) Print E-mail
Wednesday, 20 May 2009
Image"Changing Lanes" is being released simultaneously with Affleck's other film of the same time period, "Paycheck."  For some reason, "Changing Lanes" gets more respect than "Paycheck."  I can't understand for the life of me why.  The film is worse, and in the case of Blu-ray, the video and audio quality is worse.  The film was given two thumbs up by Ebert & Roeper, which doesn't make any sense.  Others called it the best film of the year.  Maybe I'm blind, but I don't see the attraction.

"Changing Lanes" is based on an interesting concept, but it gets dragged on forever and ever.  My patience started growing thin.  I kept finding myself looking at the timer to see how much time was left in this film.  In addition, the characters and acting gets on your nerves after a while.  You don't know for whom you are rooting, and in the end you just don't care anymore.  You are just glad that the film is done.

The film's story arises from a car accident between Gavin Banek (Ben Affleck) and Doyle Gibson (Samuel L. Jackson).  Gavin, a lawyer and late for a court appearance, rushes the exchanging of insurance.  While Doyle wants to do things properly, Gavin tries to just give him a blank check.  When Doyle refuses, Gavin takes off.  Neither person got each other's information.  This will come back to haunt Gavin.  As it turns out, Gavin dropped an important document at the scene of the accident only to be picked up by Doyle.

The judge gives Gavin until the end of the day to produce the Power of Appointment documentation.  Gavin seeks advice from his ex-mistress, Michelle (Toni Collette).  He is led deeper and deeper into his hole.  His conscience is telling the right thing to do, but all he does is listen to everyone else leading him down the wrong path.

Gavin and Doyle go back and forth, trying to destroy each other's life.  Doyle is distraught over losing his wife and kids because he couldn't make the court due to the car accident.  He teases Gavin with faxes and ripped up pieces of paper.  Meanwhile, Gavin shuts off Doyle's credit, declaring him bankrupt, gets him arrested for violent behavior, and more.  Both characters are bad and you really don't want either one to have things work out.  Nevertheless, both characters do the right thing in the end, although probably Doyle does more than Gavin.  Gavin helps Doyle get the house and his family back.  Doyle returns the document to Gavin and gives him the power to blackmail his employers.

Affleck doesn't deliver as good as a performance in this film as he did in "Paycheck."  He isn't a strong character.  He is always relying on others to motivate him.  Doyle is a waste of Jackson's talent. The video transfer is an MPEG-4 AVC encode, with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  The transfer is not as stellar as the "Paycheck" video quality.  The black levels are a bit weak, containing a tinted color.  Also, the darker sequences and shadows suffer from black smearing.  Shadow delineation is inconsistent.  Sometimes the details are lost in the black and sometimes costumes contain clear black separation.  Details and textures are soft.  Fleshtones are inconsistent, yielding a slight bluish tint.  Most of the close-up shots are out of focus.  Film grain is minimal and the image is some dust and dirt.  There is no compression or motion artifacting, nor is there any banding issue.  The video transfer is a solid upgrade from the standard DVD but it leaves much to be desired for Blu-ray quality.

The audio is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 and is very uninspiring.  The mix is largely front heavy despite the opportunities for heavy surround usage.  In fact, the Dolby Digital track on the original DVD is livelier in the surrounds.  There are really no dynamics to the audio track.  Even the intense car accidents never go much out of normal range.  The LFE channel is virtually nonexistent.  The dialogue is anchored to the center channel, and while audible, it does suffer from some harshness in the upper mid frequencies.  There really isn't much to the sound design of this film.  The track is never immersive, leaving you even more disengaged from a weak story.

The Blu-ray contains the same bonus materials that were present on the previous standard DVD release of the film.  They all remain in standard definition.  First there is an audio commentary with director Roger Michell.  This track is bland as can be.  There is really nothing to gain from the commentary.  In fact, Michell drags the pace down even more than it already is, if that is at all possible.  Next there is a standard making-of featurette.  "A Writer's Perspective" takes a look at screenwriting.  Additionally, there are two deleted scenes, one extended scene and a theatrical trailer.

"Changing Lanes" has an interesting concept but it is not pulled off very well.  The actors were not given a lot to work with and the film is entirely predictable.  The audio and video quality don't warrant owning this Blu-ray, but it might be worth a rent if you are in the market for something that deals human indecency toward each other.

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