Samuel L. Jackson stars as Doyle Gibson, a recovering alchoholic that is desperatly trying to prove to his ex that he is a changed man; he does not try to win her back during the movie, he's just trying to convince her that he stills deserves the chance to play Dad for his two sons. William Hurt has a smaller part as his AA sponser, which are quite realistic; instead of portraying an AA meeting with well groomed people sitting around a circle, it portrays a group of people who know they have a problem and are not perfect. It is this kind of realism that helps ground the film in the real world rather than a cinematic creation.
Gibson is due in court today for the custody hearing of his two kids; to help him along with the apparently tough case of convincing his wife he's turning things around he has put out a loan to buy a house for her and their children to live in (he does not, however, say that he has to live there; he has accepted the fact that their marrige is over, he just wants to be around his sons as they grow up.) With about a half hour to spare, Gibson gets in his car and heads off to the courthouse.
Ben Affleck plays Gaven Banek, a hot shot lawyer who is slowly in danger of becoming a corporate stooge; he was once one of the go getters and is now slowly just becoming a "yes" man. He does not want that to happen, but after growing up in a life of privilage he has learned to just accept what he is given. His main goal is to make partner so he can be alongside his father-in-law (played by the ever talented Sydney Pollock). After a meeting with his supierors, Gaven is given the job of handling a lawsuit towards the law firm; all he has to do is go down to the courthouse and show the judge a file that proves the law firm is in the right. However, if this file is not submitted into the court by the end of the day the law firm could end up in big trouble. So, he gets into his car with his briefcase and heads off to the courthouse.
What happens next sets the stage for the rest of the film-- Gaven and Doyle are in a fender bender. It's neither one's fault, really, it's just one of those real life moments: sometimes crap happens and it's no one's fault.
Gaven is in a hurry, he does not to waste time exchanging insurance cards like Doyle wants to. Gaven offers Doyle a blank check to get his car fixed, but Doyle wants to play it by the book. Frustrated, Gaven gets in his car and drives off, saying "Better luck next time" and leaving Doyle in the middle of the freeway with a flat tire.
So Doyle misses his custody hearing and finds the judge to be unsympethetic; he storms out of the courtroom in a rage. Gaven shows up late to his court appointment; he is on a roll until he discovers that the important file, the one that could get a lot of people including himself in trouble, is missing. His mind is whirling as he realizes that he dropped it when he was trying to give Doyle the check. Doyle has the file.
Gaven finds Doyle and tries to apologize for his actions, but Doyle, in a state of frenzied rage after his entire plans for the future came tumbling down at that custody hearing, does not want to hear it. Gaven offers him money; Doyle tells him that he only wants his morning back.
Doyle leaves Gaven, but Gaven isn't through yet. Gaven goes to a 'fix-it' man; a hacker who turns Doyle's credit off. Gaven does this to get Doyle's attention-- a sort of you mess with me, I mess with you message he is trying to send.
As the day progresses, each of the men start to go to great lengths to hurt each other. It's not because they are evil or villanous; it's just that when one decides to do the right thing, the other has already escalated the situation, forcing the other to retaliate.
One of the films main strengths is that it shows that neither men are the out and out good guy-- for every action that Gaven executes on Gibson there is a reaction that affects him personally and vice versa. The overall humanity of the film is gotten across by the fact that both Samuel L. Jackson and Ben Affleck are flawed people, like we all are.
The acting and the writing in the film is excellent. Jackson gives the most electrifying performance out of the entire film. There are moments in the film where you are perfectly in tune with what is going through his head. He is truely an acting force to be reckoned with, and hopefully his performance will be remembered come Oscar time.
Ben Affleck does an equally excellent job-- only with him, he gives his first truely great mainstream performance. This isn't the "mugging it for the camera" style acting you saw in the awful Pearl Harbor or the mildly entertaining Armageddon; this is more like his character from Boiler Room only with more depth and more human. There is a particular favorite shot of mine where the camera is slowly moving around Affleck, as the camera moves, Affleck just stands there, thinking, trying to figure out where he should go from her, and you can just see the wheels in his head turning. If this is the direction that Affleck is taking with his acting roles, then he has my blessings.
This is the kind of movie that does not need to have action sequences, or snappy, Tarentino type dialouge. This movie succeeds in being totally realistic; even if a few points rely a bit much on coincidence, there is never a moment in this film that could not actually happen in real life. It is this kind of faithfulness to the real world that makes the movie succeed and ever more the reason to go see it.
Rated R for language and intense situations.
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