Summary: This fast moving, gritty thriller charts a single day in the lives of two men whose (very different) worlds collide, after a minor car crash, which has major repercussions for them both.

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2002 Paramount Pictures

Directed by Roger Michell

Writing credits: Chap Taylor (story/screenplay)

Ben Affleck .... Gavin Banek

Samuel L. Jackson .... Doyle Gipson

Rated R for language

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This fast moving, gritty thriller charts a single day in the lives of two men whose (very different) worlds collide, after a minor car crash, which has major repercussions for them both.

Clip One: A Fateful Collision

Doyle Gibson (played by Samuel L Jackson) is a recovering alcoholic who is desperately trying to secure a mortgage in the hope that he can keep his family together. He’s driving to a family court hearing, with no time to lose, and he’s rehearsing his lines. He’s decided defend himself in court. “Boys need their fathers,” he says to the imaginary judge, then starts writing the phrase down on an envelope on the passenger seat. His car swerves a little.

Meanwhile, Gavin Banek (Ben Affleck) is a Wall-Street lawyer who’s also heading for court, and is also cutting it fine. Banek is not concentrating on his driving either, looking up at the signs to see which route to take. As he tries to change lanes, he hits Gibson’s car, which crumples into rubbish bins in the central reservation, seriously damaged. Banek’s car is only scratched.

Fate could not have brought together two more different people. When their cars collide, we see their different approaches to life straight away. They are both in a rush, but while Gibson wants to see Banek’s insurance card so that he can do things by the book. Banek, on the other hand, wants to follow the route of expedience, and tries to fob Gibson off with a blank cheque for the repairs. Gibson protests, “I have to do this right, you know what I mean?”

“Yes, I think so...” replies Banek, as he receives a call from his secretary telling him he’s late and the court is in session.

“Tell them I’m on the steps,” he says. And he drives off, shouting “Better luck next time!” to Gibson who is stranded on the freeway with no chance of making his own court hearing on time. Gibson’s hope of keeping his family together is disappearing before his eyes; in the end, he will arrive at court just in time to hear the judge award sole custody of his two children to his wife. But as he stands forlornly in the central reservation, Gibson looks down at the ground and sees that, in the rush, Banek has dropped a red file.

A Bitter Contest of Wills

The incident not only thwart’s Gibson; it also leaves Banek high and dry. The red file is, in fact, a crucial ‘power of appointment’ that gives Banek’s senior partners control of a $107million trust fund. A dying philanthropist called Simon Dunn had signed control of his estate over to Banek and his partners – to the annoyance of the Dunn family, who are contesting the matter in court. Banek had manipulated the man on his deathbed, in an attempt to bring a lucrative deal to the law firm that recently made him a partner. But the only document that proves Banek’s case is now in Gibson’s hands; he only finds that he doesn’t have it when he is in court, in front of the judge.

The judge gives him the rest of the day to produce it – otherwise the consequences will be disastrous for Banek. Without the document, Banek is in very big trouble with these senior partners, especially as one of them, Delano (Stephen Pollack) is his father-in-law. He will also be in big trouble with the courts, and could end up without a job and in jail. He has to retrieve the file from the man he has just left high and dry. The man to whom he wished “Better luck next time!”

The stage is set for a bitter contest of wills between the two men, as they struggle to right the wrongs and settle the scores of the car crash. Both are driven to the very edge of themselves, with each man willing to stop at almost nothing to thwart the other’s intentions.

By chance, Banek catches sight of Gibson walking down the street and tries to persuade him to return the file. But Gibson reminds Banek of his words on the freeway: “You said better luck next time. I need you to give my time back to me. Can you give me my morning back?” Banek pleads with him for the file; but Gibson has thrown it away.

Back at his office, Banek despairs as to know what to do regarding Gibson and the file. His colleague Michelle (Toni Collette) reminds him of how he came by the file in the very first place. She acts, in some sense, as his conscience: “Did you really think it was right to convince a dying man to sign a power of appointment?” she asks.

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