[MOVIE REVIEW]Philosophical insight in action-filled 'Lanes'

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[MOVIE REVIEW]Philosophical insight in action-filled 'Lanes'

"Changing Lanes" is a fable that unfolds like a Greek tragedy. It introduces two characters who are deeply flawed, then releases them to play out a vicious rumble between good and evil.

Doyle Gipson (Samuel L. Jackson) is an insurance salesman and a recovering alcoholic, an estranged father who strives to do good.

Gavin Banek (Ben Affleck) is a 29-year-old partner at a law firm who would defraud a charity and bankrupt an opponent.

When they get into a fender bender along the FDR Drive in New York, they are sucked into their personal darknesses.

The issue at stake is morality. Banek, the lawyer, may have a cocky, Masters of the Universe attitude, but he is a rabbit in a land of wolves ?one of them is his father-in-law (Sydney Pollack), another his wife (Amanda Peet). He believes "no man has any honor," yet ends up in a confession booth asking a priest about the meaning of life.

Gipson is supposed to represent goodness, but is addicted to chaos. He knows quite well what his values are, but everyone and everything seems to be against him. Tempted time and again, he falls so slowly that when he crosses his personal line, he does so with a smile.

"Changing Lanes" is one of the best films of the year. It takes philosophical issues and turns them into a high octane thriller. Surprising, the movie is directed by Roger Michell, known for romantic comedies such as "Notting Hill." With the help of the cinematographer Salvatore Totino, Michell creates an ethical exploration with a fast, rhythmic pace.

The story gets going with the accident, when both men are rushing to court. Banek can't wait; he hands Gipson a blank check and speeds away, saying, "Better luck next time."

But when Banek arrives at court, he discovers the most important document in his multimillion-dollar trust case has been lost -- and Gipson has it.

Gipson, meanwhile, is late for his custody hearing and loses the case. His wife will soon move to Oregon with their two sons.

And so Banek's and Gipson's lives collide, diverge and then collide again as Banek attempts to get the file he so desperately needs.

Along the way, the movie delivers plenty of insight. "Everything decent is held together by a covenant," observes one character. Another says that you are able to live with the wrongs you commit as long as you "learn to balance."

"Changing Lanes" strips both men bare to find their qualities and their flaws. It also examines split-second decisions and their long-term consequences.

While screenwriters Michael Tolkin ("The Player") and Chap Taylor try too hard to devise a neat ending, they craft a surprising film that entertains both the emotions and the mind.

by Joe Yong-hee

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