Lakeview Terrace (2008)
Release Date: September 19th, 2008 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Neil LaBute Actors: Samuel L. Jackson, Patrick Wilson, Kerry Washington, Ron Glass, Regine Nehy, Justin Chambers, Jay Hernandez
amuel L. Jackson has been in over 100 movies, proving himself to be quite an entertainment icon. He has played both heroes and villains with charismatic gusto and rampant enthusiasm. In “Lakeview Terrace,” he portrays the primary antagonist with a truly gleeful menace, but the screenwriters have strangely allotted such an elaborate backstory and copious amounts of piteous moments to this vicious manipulator that it’s very evident the audience is supposed to sympathize with him. Herein lies the problem, as his descent into madness becomes so aggressively psychotic that such a degree of incompatible empathy is quickly lost.
When interracial couple Chris (Patrick Wilson) and Lisa Mattson (Kerry Washington) move to an idyllic suburban neighborhood, they hope for peace, quiet, and a fresh start on building a family. What they don’t expect to find is their racist, sarcastic, condescending, ruthless, grammatically correct, and politically incorrect next-door neighbor Abel Turner (Samuel L. Jackson) – who also happens to be a cop. With the law on his side and a sadistic grudge in his heart, Turner sets about antagonizing the Mattsons with increasingly violent tactics. Having nowhere to turn and harboring an understandable obstinacy, Chris and Lisa fight back with mind games and diversionary methods – but little do they know just what kind of a monster they’ve provoked inside the unstable police officer…
Sometimes it’s difficult to root for the “good guy.” It’s even harder when the antagonist is portrayed in such a way that the audience is supposed to commiserate with him. “Lakeview Terrace” does exactly that by offering viewers the full spectrum of disgruntled police officer Abel Turner’s life, complete with two children and the stresses of his day job. Audiences are given such an involving examination of his daily predicaments and hardships that they’ll feel obligated to understand his motivations. Too bad he’s a actually a complete psychopath. As the story veers towards its inevitable conclusion, the full weight of the situation dawns, but the film conveniently ends before the real tragedy surfaces – leaving the audience to ponder who, if anyone, actually triumphed from the calamitous confrontation.
While Samuel L. Jackson is entertaining in just about everything he’s in (entertaining, not exceptional) “Lakeview Terrace” runs dry with both its overlong duration and the fact that its storyline is almost identical to 1992’s “Unlawful Entry.” It’s a mortifying thought to be unable to turn to the police for help – unfortunately, many will have already experienced that cinematic fear with Kurt Russell and an equally impressive Ray Liotta in Jackson’s role. “Unlawful Entry” may be relatively obscure, but “Lakeview Terrace’s” originality still suffers. Additionally, the film includes so many unnecessary subplots that the drawn-out conclusion will be in high anticipation; churning out repetitious themes accounts for frustration, not character development. Plus, many of the tangents are left unresolved or purposely forgotten in the hopes that the audience will focus squarely on the crisis at hand, but they nevertheless linger after the credits roll. “Lakeview Terrace” does provide some thrilling moments and a villain who loves his merciless taunts, but contemplating the real value of the lessons learned – something nearly unavoidable at the close – might negate all the fun.
– The Massie Twins