Changing Lanes starts strong: a luckless black father battling alcoholism and a filthy rich young white lawyer crash cars during the morning rush. Samuel Jackson's character, Doyle Gipson, wants to do things right. But Gavin Banek (Ben Affleck) just scrawls off a blank check and leaves Doyle stranded—accidentally giving Doyle a crucial legal document and making the father late for a custody hearing, which prompts Doyle's ex-wife (Kim Staunton) to move to Oregon with their children. By the time Gavin realizes that Doyle has something he needs, it's too late. The men scheme for revenge in an intensifying battle where the only thing outpacing their malice is guilt about what they've done to hurt the other.
The combat and social critique moves along many lines. Doyle and Gavin are cruel, but strong moral underpinning prevents the movie from becoming meanspirited. Affleck's uninvolved acting gets easily upstaged by Jackson and Staunton. Samuel Jackson hasn't been this strong with weakness since his role as a crack addict in Jungle Fever. Individual performances aside, Changing Lanes uneasily shifts gears between ire, revenge, and remorse, giving the film a clunky rhythm.