Fortunately, the script never goes all Hollywood-stupid on us. Despite some slightly contrived plotting, the themes are drawn out wonderfully without being manipulative or obvious. And it never degenerates into a star vehicle for either of the lead actors. This is another effective role for Affleck (along with The Sum of All Fears), in that it doesn't require him to be a hero or carry the film; rather, he can put his relatively bland subtlety to fine use as a slippery guy with suppressed pangs of conscience. Meanwhile, Jackson plays against type as a nerdy good guy who seems to attract utter chaos. And their characters are broadened and deepened by back-stories and fine support from Collette (as Gavin's colleague and ex-mistress), Pollack (Gavin's boss and father-in-law), Peet (Gavin's wife), Hurt (Doyle's AA sponsor), and so on. There's a lot going on in the film, and yet the themes all focus in perfectly on the escalating central conflict, constantly putting us into Gavin's and Doyle's shoes and making us wonder what our next move would be in their place. OK, so it all gets a bit tidy at the end, leaving most of the repercussions off screen for us to wonder about. But by then it's certainly got us thinking about what's really important in life and society.
dir Roger Michell
scr Chap Taylor, Michael Tolkin
with Ben Affleck, Samuel L Jackson, Toni Collette, Kim Staunton, Sydney Pollack, Amanda Peet, William Hurt, Dylan Baker, Richard Jenkins, Matt Malloy, John Benjamin Hickey, Ileen Getz
release US 12.Apr.02; UK 1.Nov.02
Fender bender. Gavin and Doyle (Affleck and Jackson) have a little bump on the way to court ... that nearly ruins their lives.
|"Gavin Banek (Affleck) is a big-shot lawyer - married to the boss' daughter, on a mission. He is to go to the court and file papers, allowing his agency full control over a $100 million trust fund - he has the signed papers in a file, and he is in a hurry. Doyle Gipson (Jackson) is also on a mission - he has worked things out so he can buy a house, and hopefully persuade his ex-wife not to leave for Oregon and give him another chance. We all have had many chance encounters in our life, and I am sure a few of us wish we had made a different choice - I had the saying 'Two wrongs don't make a right' running through my head throughout this entire movie. Two people on a roadway heading for the same destination literally collide. But Banek can't be bothered with small stuff - he refuses to give his insurance card to Gipson who, working in insurance, wants to make sure everything is done right. The movie escalates from there - Banek learns Gipson's name, Gipson learns he has a valuable file - yet will anyone here do the right thing? They both do wrong after wrong - and this movie proves that two wrongs definitely do NOT add up to a right. I really liked this movie - it was fascinating to see what each was going to do next - how low could two guys stoop after a chance encounter? They both seem determined to ruin the other. The other thing I noticed is that race did not enter into the plot - either character could have been white or African American, it would not have mattered. What mattered is the choices they made. I really liked this movie - I felt the actors played their parts well, and it was fascinating to watch human behavior at its worst, until they figured out no one was winning anything that way. I think this is one movie you should see this year." --Laurie T, Minneapolis 22.Apr.02