Prayer Focus
Movie Review

Changing Lanes

MPAA Rating: R for language

Reviewed by: Gregg Groninger

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Primary Audience:
1 hr. 39 min.
Year of Release:
Samuel L. Jackson and Ben Affleck in “Changing Lanes”

Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Affleck, Toni Collette, Sydney Pollack, William Hurt | Directed by: Roger Michell | Produced by: Scott Rudin | Written by: Michael Tolkin, Chap Taylor, Anthony Picharillo | Distributor: Paramount Pictures

“Changing Lanes” is a dark and introspective movie about anger and conscience. It starts off with an interstate fender-bender between an alcoholic insurance salesman (Samuel L. Jackson) and a Wall Street lawyer (Ben Affleck).

Both men are late for appointments. Gavin Baneck (Affleck) leaves behind an important folder with the only documents in a fraud case against his firm. Doyle Gibson (Jackson) is left stranded and late for his child custody court date. Such incidents set off a vengeful day in which each man tries to one-up the other, finding themselves ultimately searching their souls for their own morality’s response. But what happens in real life often doesn’t reflect what we morally know should be done.

Christians will notice some great potential for discussion about our own morality, and the fact that we as humans often come up short. For example, Gavin, after walking away from his sabotaged car, finds himself in a church confessional. The priest talks to Gavin as he looks for the meaning of life and how to find happiness. I waited for the priests’ answer but Gavin threw a fit and left unfulfilled.

I wanted to shout out “Ask Jesus Christ to be your Lord and Savior,” but like Gavin I left the movie feeling unfulfilled.

The acting in “Changing Lanes” is quite good, reminding me of Michael Douglas’ “Falling Down”. The profanity is average, but be warned that there are several instances of the Lord’s name being taken in vain.

Editor’s Note: If used as a discussion starter for a look at morality, you may want to become familiar with the approach that Ray Comfort uses in his article “Am I good enough to go to Heaven?” Also, apologist Daryl Witmer tells an interesting story of a conversation he had with a hospitalized cancer victim who is brought to the place where he examines his own morality and considers “How good is good enough in light of a perfect God?.”

Viewer Comments
Comments below:
Positive—After seeing all too many movies recently with one-dimensional characters and predictable plots, I found it refreshing to see a film as intelligently written as this one. Both of the main characters are far from saints. Yet, despite what they do, they aren’t evil either.

They really, sincerely, want to do what is right, but they face obstacles (including their own characters) in doing so. It reminded me of the words of Paul when he wrote about his thorn in the flesh.

The film is rich in the Gospel themes of personal struggle, redemption and forgiveness. In many ways, the film asks the questions we all face (or should): How do we choose the right? What do we do about things that keep us from choosing the right? Once we make a mistake, are we doomed to repeat it? How should we treat others who treat us wrongly?

And why should we do what is right anyway, one of the characters has the audacity to ask God. Unlike many films, this one offers plenty to think and talk about.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4½]
—Eric, age 48
Positive—“Few films reflect the spiritual and ethical struggle within American culture as powerfully as Roger Michell’s “Changing Lanes.” Though morally exhausting as we walk through the sequence of events that occur because of a simple automobile accident, writer Chris Taylor exposes the moral morass in which many of us live our lives.

Far more subtle and complex than a simple morality play, “Changing Lanes” only hints at the possible solution to our dilemma and leaves us longing for the more transcendent resolution… Like ships without rudders, the removal of spiritual communities and their moral teachings leave Gavin’s father-in-law explaining that he has no standard by which to evaluate his behaviors. He says that he “tries, by the end of the day to do a little more good than harm.”

In a similar way, Gavin’s wife (Amanda Peet) explains that she grew up in the opulence gained by her father’s ability to use the law to cheat and deceive, and that she chose Gavin because she knew he would provide for her in the same way her father had. She did not choose a moral man because she wanted the pleasures immorality could afford.

In all of our lives, there are moments when we make decisions to either care for one another in honesty and love or destroy one another with whatever resources we have at our disposal.

Though “Changing Lanes” doesn’t provide the answer it hints at throughout the film, it clearly presents the choices we are called upon to make.” Their Rating: [4 stars (their highest)]
—Denny and Hal,
Positive—I agree with the reviewer and other commentators. Although the middle act consists mostly of one-upmanship and revenge, the conclusion and some tidbits sprinkled throughout make this film “good of kind”—better than I expected. Surprisingly thought-provoking.
My Ratings: [Average / 3½]
Brett Willis, age 51
Positive—This is an excellent movie for those who value character development over non-stop action, although there was that, as well. The main protagontists/antagonists, Mr. Jackson and Mr. Affleck, play an incredible game of tit for tat, until even they become appalled by what they themselves have been capable of doing.

There is no sexual content to the film, although Affleck does kiss a former mistress on the cheek. Profanity is spare (either that, or I was so engrossed that I didn’t hear it, which is usually not the case), and comes from characters whom you would expect it to come from (that is, those whose moral standards are not particularly high)… It seemed that from the start, both characters wanted to do the right thing (and this is a phrase that comes up throughout the movie), but find themselves, in their desperation, very capable of doing any but that.

As both of their lives threaten to disintegrate as the games and the stakes escalate, both are also forced to really look at themselves, and decide what kind of human beings they want to be. This is not a case of picking your bad guy and then whooping and hollering when he “gets” the other guy.

I found myself hurting and rooting for both of them. Certainly “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” repentance, and offering and receiving forgiveness are major themes in this movie. The ending is what every Christian I know would want it to be, and I found it immensely satisfying.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4½]
—Mary, age 49
Positive—Changing Lanes is about two characters who actually do want to behave morally, even when they know that their impulse for revenge is taking them over. Wrath is a deadly sin; this movie knows that it’s deadly and treats it as such. One character even tries to find his way out of his anger in a church. The R rating is for language, but it should be okay for even older teenagers. One of the few movies that will make a viewer want to be better than he or she is.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4]
—Jack, age 40
Positive—This is a movie about making wrong choices and trying to overcome them. There’s one man who’s desperately trying to right the wrongs he made in his past, and another man who deliberately has done wrong things in the name of greed. Their chance encounter forces both of them to look inside themselves. This movie is excellent for sparking discussions about ethics and doing right by others. It is also excellent for exploring the topic of living a Christian life while dealing with how the world operates.
My Ratings: [Average / 4]
—Hillari Hunter, age 40
Positive—Changing Lanes was a great movie! The acting was well done, and the plot was very interesting. I didn’t find the movie very offensive. Yes, they did swear, and there were several uses of the Lord’s name in vain, but not nearly as much as I expected. I definitely don’t think Changing Lanes deserved to be rated R. Definitely worth your time and money!
My Ratings: [Average / 4]


Movie Critics
…7 F-words, 7 scatological terms, 5 mild obscenities, 11 religious profanities or exclamations…
…Both men, although from different social strata, have similar ideals about moral behavior. But circumstances create an atmosphere of anger and hostility that drives them to act against their moral judgment. But after the events of Good Friday bring both men to the bottom of their moral well…
—Preview Family Movie and TV Review
Comments from young people
Negative—I didn’t think this movie was overly offensive, but I have to say it is one of the worst movies I have ever seen. It is so drawn out I wanted to go to sleep in the theatre. So I would say go see it only if you are a big fan of the actors otherwise pass this one up.
My Ratings: [Average / 1½]
—Eric, age 15