Changing Lanes (2002)

Morality is grey matter. It has no discernable shade which is pleasing to everyone; all have their own opinion on what constitutes proper and improper morality. Or even what morality means in the first place. Ergo, when a situation arises between two high strung men involving millions of dollars and addiction to chaos, well, the results can be as murky as the proverbial swamp is foul. Morality is would seem exists as a mud crab hiding underneath the slime.

This is why for the characters portrayed by Ben Affleck and Samuel L. Jackson, the mission of life is so intense. With the former trying desperately to locate a file which is sown with corruption and holds his career in his hands, while the latter rushes against time to find the means to convince his wife that he is a good father, each slides into a game of “one up-men-ship” with the future of the other in their hands. It is like a game of cat and mouse for grownups. Nothing is off limits: credit history, bank accounts, children, wives, even careers. In order to gain the upper hand, obtain the needed action which will give them the net result they need, they each are driven to commit terrible crimes for the betterment of their own lives.

This is the strange morality since each believes they are doing the right thing in the long run; each man, in actuality, however, is acting selfishly. Their need to dominate the other germinates from a deep seated illness, from a mixed desire to succeed as well as justify their antics as morally upright. Being both hypocrites, however, fate operates against their grain and the existential Angst which they went to such great heights to avoid, asserts itself in an ironic fashion anyways with both men’s objectives dialectically negating their intentions in a negation of the negation. Such a transparence concludes with a heartfelt meeting of the minds whereby the hubris of their actions are laid bare for the other to see.

I was ambivalent about Changing Lanes. I thought it was going to be nothing but another crime action flick between authority and anti-authority. I was wrong. It was actually rather touching and though a bit melodramatic actually down to earth in the sense that the anger and urgency felt by the protagonists could be felt by anyone with a bone to pick after an ill-fated encounter or mistake, of the desperation to rectify what was thought to be settled. The music, mise-en-scene, and acting all back up this thesis. In the end this film is not merely a meeting or moral minds led astray but of the self-probing required to direct a life in the positive direction, past the temptations of sin.

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