Apparently, we can't all just get along.
In "Lakeview Terrace," Samuel L. Jackson plays a veteran black cop named Abel Turner. At first thought, living next door to a cop should be a good thing.
In "Lakeview Terrace," it's not.
Turner wreaks havoc in the lives of new neighbors Chris (Patrick Wilson) and Lisa Mattson (Kerry Washington), an interracial couple...apparently Turner doesn't really approve of the whole race-mixing thing.
Director Neil LaBute would seem the ideal choice to direct such a film. LaBute has made a solid career out of writing and directing plays and films that challenge societal stereotypes, roles and values. Here, however, LaBute is directing off a script by Howard Korder and David Loughery. The end result lacks the typical LaBute cohesion and spark.
Instead, much of "Lakeview Terrace" plays like a semi-comical melodrama purporting to confront racial stereotypes but too often reinforcing them.
LaBute, whose career started out so promisingly, appears to be caught in a rut. He's apparently become successful enough to land big budget films, but not quite powerful enough to control the films he's directing. After the abysmal "The Wicker Man" remake, "Lakeview Terrace" may send LaBute back to the land of ultra-indies...this may not be a bad thing as it's where he's done his most memorable work.
Wilson and Washington do exhibit a fair bit of chemistry, though "Lakeview Terrace" never fully explores the increasingly menacing taunts of Turner as he essentially turns into Chris's predator in his own determination to chase the Mattson's out of the neighborhood.
One half expected Turner to scream out "I have had it with these motherfucking white folks in this motherfucking neighborhood."
But, I digress.
Unfortunately for Jackson, the expectation isn't too far off the mark as "Lakeview Terrace" simply offers Jackson another chance to exhibit his trademark growl with his serio-comic bark and bite. It's not really a bad performance, simply a familiar one.
The histrionic melodrama goes full tilt as the film winds down, though to LaBute's credit "Lakeview Terrace" somehow maintains enough interest, suspense and unexpected moments to keep it all at least semi-involving.
By the end of "Lakeview Terrace," it becomes apparent that LaBute wasn't really the right director at all for this project...not because of any weakness on LaBute's part, but because the writers and, most likely, the studio didn't have the balls to turn "Lakeview Terrace" into anything even remotely insightful or bold. Instead, the film dissolves into a modestly entertaining action/thriller featuring decent performances, a few suspenseful moments and a whole lot more in the way of missed opportunities.
Perhaps for the DVD, LaBute could combine his last two films and make Abel Turner "The Wicker Racist?"
by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic