Sunday, July 31, 2011

Canon Movie Review: Lakeview Terrace

Last week, I watched a movie that had Samuel L. Jackson in it, so I decided to continue with that theme and watch the 2008 movie Lakeview Terrace. Distributed by Screen Gems and co-produced by Will Smith, Lakeview Terrace was directed by Neil LaBute (The Wicker Man, Possession) and stars Jackson, Patrick Wilson, Kerry Washington, Jay Hernandez, Ron Glass, and Justin Chambers. In the movie, a young interracial couple, Lisa (Washington) and Chris (Wilson) Mattison, move into what they think is their dream house. Even better, Abel Turner, a 28-year veteran of the LAPD (Jackson) lives right next door, so they assume that this is a safe neighborhood. As it turns out, Abel is strongly against the Mattison's relationship, so he decides to terrorize them, leaving the Mattisons with few options because, well, he's a cop. Sure, I guess they could call the cops and hope for the best, but they never do.

As Abel Turner, Jackson plays a strong-willed veteran cop who is completely sure of his beliefs and totally unwilling to budge on his convictions. He's a man trying to do the right things, raising his kids in a nice neighborhood and teaching them morals and values. The problem is that Turner seems two seconds away from going berserk, and he is so inflexible that it affects his job and relationship with his kids. In Lakeview Terrace, Jackson walks a fine line between fine upstanding citizen and a man burning with rage towards the changes the world has made, and he does it quite well. Jackson's acting skill was the highlight of this film, and he was able to convey the role of Abel Turner with subtlety when needed while providing the necessary menace.

Meanwhile, Turner's foils in their neighborly feud are the Mattisons, a liberal and interracial couple who one could describe as 'yuppies'. As Chris Mattison, Wilson plays the part of a man that is unprepared to deal with the constant harassment of his cop neighbor. Whereas Turner is sure in his beliefs in actions, Chris isn't quite sure what to do, which gives the scenes between Jackson and Wilson a certain undertone. You can almost feel the unease between the two men whenever they're on screen together, which is a credit to both Jackson and Wilson. While Wilson is at least above average in his role, Washington, well, she was there. It wasn't like she was terrible or anything, but she seemed to be lost at times, especially when tensions were supposed to be high in her relationship with her husband.

However, Washington's flat acting wasn't the biggest problem the film had. Instead, it was the direction of Neil LaBute and screenplay of David Loughery and Howard Kohler. It didn't seem like they wanted this film to be a social commentary or a psychological thriller, so they just shot for something in between and hoped for the best. The first half of the movie was much superior to the second, as the relationship between Abel and the new neighbors was a lot more subtle and two-sided. Yes, Abel was a stick in the mud, but you could see why he would have problems with the new neighbors (what with there leaving cigarette butts in the yard and doing the horizontal boogy outside in full view of his kids, plus their friends were a bunch of liberal douchebags). After a while, the lines that were blurred are now completely black and white, as Turner just changes character and becomes the big evil cop going against the liberal suburbanites, helpless against the big blue machine. Then the film completely goes off the rails in the last 25 minutes or so, as there's a massive fire and a break-in and murder and a whole mess of other stuff.

At the end of the day (or film), Lakeview Terrace is a film with some decent performances from its top actors and raises a few social issues that will make you think. However, it had the potential to be a much more significant film instead of the ham-fisted thriller that it turned out to be. Overall, I'd give Lakeview Terrace a 4.85 out of 10. Well, thanks for reading, and if you have any thoughts about this film, or ideas for future posts, then feel free to leave a comment or to send me an e-mail at

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