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Ben Affleck sure does cry a lot in Changing Lanes. His dopey Easter Island head starts shaking, his thin snail lips get to quivering, and then—squinty eyes, squinty eyes—here come the waterworks! He’ll squirt a few just about anywhere, too: at the office, at lunch with the wife, at church. See, the tears are there to let the audience know that, although Affleck’s hotshot lawyer may indeed spend a portion of the movie destroying every facet of an innocent man’s existence, the character is a really sweet guy at heart. Oh, boy. Equipped with the acting range of a deployed air bag, Affleck still isn’t the biggest problem with director Roger Michell’s wimpy drama, the story of how two men’s lives are drastically changed (but not really) when they engage in some fender bending during morning rush hour on New York City’s FDR Drive. Michell, whose Notting Hill was a nail-biter compared with this mess, can’t decide if he wants to make a John Grisham-style thriller, an edgy examination of race relations, or a compassionate portrayal of the haves vs. the have-nots, so he strives for all three—poorly. Samuel L. Jackson, as a down-and-out recovering alcoholic who’s trying to buy a house and get custody of his two sons, plays Affleck’s foil, and the veteran actor does his smoldering best with what little character he has to work with. But the promised battle royal between the two men never fully materializes: After the rich white lawyer bolts the scene of the accident—”Better luck next time!” he shouts over the sound of peeling wheels—he realizes that he has left behind a shady legal file crucial to a shady case he’s working on. The poor black insurance adjuster, meanwhile, his car totaled, is left helpless and pissed by the side of the road; as a result, he’s fatally late for a court appearance that would allow him a chance at getting his kids back. But dontcha know he has that important file, and he’s not returning it without a little justice (but not really). Michell allows the men a halfhearted game of nasty give-and-take: The panicked lawyer hires a sleazy financial hit man to wipe out his new enemy’s bank account; Jackson’s common man loosens the lug nuts on the wheels of the lawyer’s luxury car. But before things get too ugly or, for that matter, very interesting, the men have a feel-goody change of heart, and, in a truly stomach-churning turn, the rich guy bails out the poor guy. To reveal more would ruin the crappy ending, but let’s just say that Affleck, that little ninny, needs one more tissue. —Sean Daly