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Lakeview Terrace: Snake On a Pane

Lakeview Terrace
Directed by Neil LaBute
Written by David Loughery and Howard Korder
Sony, 2008

The writer/director Neil LaBute I remember from In the Company of Men would have never let a premise such as Lakeview Terrace get by without putting in some really wicked dialogue on race relations.  Of course, this is a big studio movie looking for a wide audience, and real biting dialogue need not apply here.  And the fact is, a movie like Lakeview Terrace will make more money than anything LaBute ever did in the indie world…on its opening weekend.

Aging LAPD cop Abel Turner (Samuel L. Jackson) lives in his glorious suburban home with his daughter Celia (Regine Nehy) and son Marcus (Jaishon Fisher).  His wife died three years ago in an auto collision, and the hardened law enforcer has had to raise his kids by himself.  Next door, an interracial couple moves in.  White guy Chris (Patrick Wilson) and black gal Lisa (Kerry Washington) are settling in, one day hoping to have a family, real newlywed hope kind of stuff.  The match already has Abel a bit angry; maybe it’s because he’s a racist, or that Lisa reminds him of his deceased wife, or maybe it’s something deeper, we don’t know.  He tries to make nice, though, with the new couple, but his edginess tends to shine through more than kindness: on-the-line jabs at Chris being white, security lights that shine into Chris and Lisa’s bedroom, and some we-know-he-did-it sabotage.

Chris tries to make nice as much as possible, too, but it’s clear that Abel isn’t going to quite budge or leave them alone in a meaningful way.  Lots of provoking incidents, and, “What are you going to do, I’m a cop,” stuff.  There’s not much in the way of plot other than that, and Chris and Lisa’s marriage taking some early hits, and oh yeah, did I mention there’s a California wildfire making its way to the neighborhood?  Yeah, I’m sure this is metaphorical…a bit in-your-face, but metaphorical nonetheless, and heightens the ridiculous aspect of the movie.

Yeah, Abel turns a bit too psycho too soon in this flick.  And all of the events in this picture are just over-the-top nonsense, pretty much pulp fodder so that SLJ can scream.  And there’s nothing wrong with trashy as long as it’s embraced full-on, but it takes itself a little too seriously, and the enjoyment from such a thriller (Unlawful Entry comes to mind) is missing.

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