Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000 to 2009.
“Virtue isn’t virtue unless it slams up against real vice.”
That quote from Homicide: Life on the Street sums up the collision in Roger Michell’s Changing Lanes — sold by Paramount in 2002 as its latest slick-crap thriller du jour but more concerned with ethics than explosive thrills. (Just pardon David Arnold’s techno score, which sounds like a trip-hop martini-bar soundtrack.)
Ben Affleck is hotshot lawyer Gavin and Samuel L. Jackson is hot-tempered customer-service worker Doyle — separately en route to court to respectively gain control of a disputed charitable fund and custody of two sons.
A fender bender ends with Gavin leaving Doyle stranded. While Doyle taunts Gavin with a file left behind that he’ll need to win his fraudulent case, Gavin erases Doyle’s digital fingerprint of credit and cash.
Like Caché, Lanes asks how far we’d go not to lose what’s ours, but as more of a morality play with credible hope for détente rather than any destructive driving force. Gavin and Doyle are two severely flawed men who are nevertheless easy to like — their best intentions getting knocked about by their worst impulses.
A tony supporting cast comprises angels, and devils, at their ears — most impressively Sydney Pollack as Gavin’s SOB boss and Amanda Peet as his wife, who’s put materialism and image above her own self-worth.
In crisis, we all have a little bit of chaos addiction to call attention to ourselves. Remembering the idea of walking the line to do more good than harm is the key.