Lakeview Terrace
dir Neil Labute
scr David Loughery, Howard Korder
with Samuel L Jackson, Patrick Wilson, Kerry Washington, Jay Hernandez, Ron Glass, Justin Chambers, Regine Nehy, Jaishon Fisher, Robert Pine, Keith Loneker, Caleeb Pinkett, Robert Dahey
release US 19.Sep.08, UK 5.Dec.08
08/US Screen Gems 1h46
Lakeview Terrace
Get out of my house: Wilson and Jackson

washington hernandez labute
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Lakeview Terrace This straightforward crazed-madman thriller is trying to pass itself off as an insightful look at racial tension, but it's simply not strong enough to pull off the trick. Once Samuel L Jackson gets that twitchy look in his eyes, we know exactly where it's headed.

Chris and Lisa (Wilson and Washington) are a young couple moving into their first home in a Los Angeles suburb. When they find out that their single-dad neighbour Abel (Jackson) is a cop, it seems like good news. But he begins to look at them funny, disapproving of their mixed-race marriage and the way they befriend his harshly regulated children (Nehy and Fisher). So he starts a campaign of quiet harassment that sits just this side of the law. Until they stand up to him.

After a string of much more fiercely single-minded movies, it's odd to see Labute reduced to directing a shallow bit of overblown suburban paranoia that could have been made by anyone. Although it's perhaps his involvement that gives the film what little weight it has, mainly in the suggestive way the camera locks onto its characters, especially when they're at their most vulnerable. And also the fact that the violence is truly nasty.

The cast is also good enough to make the film feel like there's a lot more going on here than there is. Wilson and Washington are terrific as the couple caught in the spotlight, perhaps not making the wisest decisions and clearly not communicating properly, but never deserving what happens to them. They get all our sympathy. Jackson could play this role in his sleep, but gives it a seriously vicious kick.

As the story progresses, the racial-themed dialog ends up meaning nothing at all, and the way the script shows sex as something dangerous and vengeful is pretty vile. The screenwriters also carefully contrive each element, right up to an impending brushfire that makes sure everyone else has evacuated the street in time for the big showdown. The only entertainment here is watching Jackson prowl like a lion waiting to pounce. But even that just brings to mind much better corrupt cop thrillers.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 16.Oct.08

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© 2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall