Directed by Roger Michell starring Ben Affleck, Samuel L Jackson, Toni Collette, Sidney Pollack, William Hurt, Amanda Peet and Kim Staunton.

Two men who were never meant to meet: Doyle Gipson (Jackson), is an insurance salesman and recovering alcoholic attempting to get his relationship with his ex-wife back together before she is granted sole custody of the kids; Gavin Banek (Affleck) is a Wall Street lawyer shadily trying to secure control of a $100m trust fund for his father-in-law's (an excellent Pollack) firm.

On the day both men are due in court to argue their cases, their lives collide on the FDR Drive as Banek's car hits Doyle's banger. In too much of a hurry to stay at the scene and heed Doyle's advice to do the right thing, Banek writes a blank cheque and leaves without even offering the older man a lift.

But the minor scrape throws both men's lives into turmoil. Doyle misses his hearing at the family court and Banek leaves an all-important legal document on the boot of Doyle's car. One now has nothing to lose, the other everything to gain.

Michell's big breakthrough came with 'Notting Hill' but 'Changing Lanes' is a far grittier and urgent slice of life in the big city. The trailer might make you believe the film is an all-action thriller but there are no punch-ups, car chases, epic finales or indeed heroes. Instead, the film is a character study powered by the moral hurdles both men jump in their bid to justify their actions.

Michell's direction, at times recalling the feel of BBC dramas like 'This Life', is suitably low key and the tight script allows him to deftly show how one man takes out the ills in his own life on the other. In the midst of this mental anguish Jackson gets his finest role in years as the guy having a bad day in an even worse life. And Affleck, while never reaching the level of his co-star is solid, if not quite smarmy enough, as the hotshot forced to figure out just what he can live with.

There comes a moment where 'Changing Lanes' could end with one of the best pay-off lines imaginable. Sadly, Michell takes the easy way out with an upbeat closing scene, which - while in no way as hard to stomach as most feel-good finales - still makes you wish he yelled "cut' five minutes earlier.

But even with that letdown, how often do you go to a Hollywood movie and still find yourself thinking about it on the way to work the next day?

Harry Guerin