”Sometimes God likes to put two guys in a paper bag and just let ’em rip,” seethes legal beagle Gavin Banek (Ben Affleck), reflecting on his daylong battle with luckless Everyman Doyle Gipson (Samuel L. Jackson). He almost nails it: Change ”God” to ”a screenwriter” and ”guys” to ”stock characters,” and you’ll know what to expect from Changing Lanes, a hospital-corners morality play that pleasantly exceeds itself.
Filtering the Golden Rule through ”Spy vs. Spy,” the story fates Banek to sideswipe Gipson on the FDR Drive, then hurriedly abandon him at roadside. This makes Gipson disastrously late for a child-custody hearing and ignites his ”path of the righteous man” vengefulness (a mode Jackson might consider retiring). A Pong-like feud ensues, supposedly illustrating how ”everything decent is held together by a covenant…not to go bats—.” Non-profundities like that are the only real potholes on this briskly morose tour of New York City — or rather, the Hollywood version, where rain falls on Feckless White and Angry Black stereotypes alike.