'Changing Lanes,' a novel ride

Most likely, the makers of "Changing Lanes" intended to whip up a high-tension thriller.

What they ended up with is a psychological satire with plot holes so big you could drive the main characters' cars through them.

Would a savvy New York attorney leave an incriminating message on an enemy's answering machine?

Would a sprinkler system drench an entire high-tech office because of a flame under one little sensor?

Such oddities don't make it a bad movie, though. It's quite engrossing if you regard it as a morality tale rather than a suspense yarn. How many major-studio melodramas care more about provoking philosophical thoughts than about making everyday sense?

Ben Affleck plays Gavin, a high-powered corporate lawyer, and Samuel L. Jackson plays Doyle, a low-powered insurance salesman.

They become adversaries after a highway fender-bender: Gavin's insensitivity makes Doyle miss a crucial custody hearing, and Doyle gets his hands on a document that could send Gavin to jail. This sparks a day of threats and counter-threats.

Gavin wields his power to retrieve the file, while Doyle uses it for revenge against Gavin and the heartless capitalism he represents.

Roger Michell directed "Changing Lanes" from a screenplay cowritten by Michael Tolkin, who has explored ethical issues from a robustly skeptical perspective in films like "The Player" and "The Rapture."

The story loses its bite in a last-minute happy ending that's even less plausible than the rest of the picture. Much of the way, though, this is a refreshingly novel ride.

• Rated R; contains violence, foul language.

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