Review by Jack Foley
NEIL LaBute’s second film as director for hire (after Nurse Betty) is an intriguing social thriller that places an interesting spin on the race-relations theme.
Instead of focusing the action on a white racist bigot, Lakeview Terrace makes the main protagonist a man of colour… and a police officer at that. It makes for an incendiary battle of wits that’s well served by a great cast, but which ultimately runs out of steam thanks to a contrived Hollywood ending.
Abel Turner (Samuel L Jackson) is a widowed LA cop and father who takes objection when a mixed-race couple, the Mattsons (played by Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington), move into the house next door.
At first, his bigotry takes the form of overly aggressive warnings and nit-picking about neighbourhood rules, but as Chris Mattson attempts to stand up for himself the matter becomes more violent.
LaBute’s film is at its best when allowing the tension to simmer and slowly reach boiling point, throwing in plenty of moral complexity along the way.
Jackson’s police officer is unquestionably unhinged and dangerous, but some of what he has to say and objects to does have a certain validity. While, likewise, some of the Mattsons’ responses are ill-advised to say the least – stemming from male bravado and petulance rather than common sense.
Jackson, as ever, provides a towering presence, mixing charisma with menace in effortless fashion, while Wilson and Washington provide worthy adversaries.
Some viewers may reflect on Lakeview Terrace‘s similarities with a couple of thrillers from the ’90s, such as Pacific Heights and Unlawful Entry, but LaBute’s film also stands as a neat little thriller in its own right.
It’s just a shame that the resolution feels so rushed and desperate to play to Hollywood convention, thereby depriving it of the ability to really leave a lasting impression. As is so often the case, Jackson – in particular – deserves a little more for his efforts.
Running time: 2hrs 3mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: March 30, 2009