Lakeview Terrace

2008-12-12 11:22
Lakeview Terrace
What it's about:

Pretty-as-pie interracial couple Chris (Patrick Wilson) and Lisa Mattson (Kerry Washington) move into their first home with high hopes of domestic bliss, only to find themselves next door to Abel Turner (Samuel L Jackson), a cop who seems to disapprove of their relationship. What starts as a neighbourly feud between the Mattsons and Turner soon spirals into a twisted web of dangerous mischief as the depths of Abel’s racism become frighteningly clear.

What we thought of it:

Lakeview Terrace starts off well enough. We don’t know much about this Abel fellow, and that keeps things creepy. He pops up out of nowhere to give Chris subtle hints that he’s not welcome in Lakeview, peers ominously through his blinds at the neighbours, and looks capable of some serious couple-hating smackdown.

But Abel had to be Samuel L Jackson. This is both good and bad. Jackson, being a veteran actor with serious star power, fleshes out his scary cop with real menace, borrowed from all his iconic "badass" roles. But Jackson, being a veteran actor with serious star power, was never going to stay on the fringes of any movie. Initially a peripheral weirdo, a voyeur whom we are meant to fear, Abel begins to inhabit the story more and more until all the "suspense" that's been built up has been sucked out of the movie.

We don’t want to see the scary bits from the bad guy’s point of view! Haven’t the filmmakers watched anything? This is Basic Blockbuster Making 101.

Admittedly, we are made to wonder for a while how much of a "bad guy" Abel really is, and whether he is one at all. Had his backstory been a convincing tapestry of wrongdoing and racial confusion, maybe we would feel something for the guy.

Maybe it would be worth sacrificing all the suspense in a supposed "thriller". But it’s not, because Abel turns out to be just another arsehole with an axe to grind, and we are left to watch him try to terrorise the Mattson’s as a raging wildfire consumes the Los Angeles county (metaphor, anyone?).

Lakeview Terrace could have been both a good thriller and a smart movie about race, but ends up being neither. Though vividly shot, it has a clumsy feel for tension and character development that severely lets its ambitious double-premise down.

- Niel Bekker

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An LAPD officer will stop at nothing to force out the interracial couple who just moved in next door.

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