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  Lakeview Terrace Neighbourhood Botch
Year: 2008
Director: Neil LaBute
Stars: Samuel L. Jackson, Patrick Wilson, Kerry Washington, Ron Glass, Justin Chambers, Jay Hernandez, Regine Nehy, Jaishon Fisher, Robert Pine, Keith Loneker, Caleeb Pinkett, Robert Dahey, Ho-Jung
Genre: ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Abel Turner (Samuel L. Jackson) is a widowed Los Angeles cop who by day works the streets, arresting criminals with some zeal, perhaps too much, but by night returns to his home with his two children in the secure community Lakeview Terrace, where today as he gets ready for work he notices a new couple moving in next door. What he's not too pleased about is the fact that while the husband, Chris (Patrick Wilson), is white, his wife, Lisa (Kerry Washington), is black and Abel is far from keen on that arrangement living right next door...

That's because Abel is a mad racist, in a film that apparently wanted to be taken seriously as an example of the type of prejudice mixed race couples face, but was rather duplicitious in its devising, as what this actually was turned out to be a throwback to one of those nineties psychothrillers where a nice couple are terrorised by a psychopath with a grudge: see Pacific Heights, Single White Female, The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, and on and on ad nauseam for further details. But especially see Unlawful Entry, which screenwriters David Loughery and Howard Korder took a racial twist on for this story.

What was meant to be scary about this was the cop next door was putting the screws on the nice couple, and they could not do anything about it because Abel was a lawman and therefore represented a mountain to climb should they wish to make an official complaint. He can get away with all sorts, was the main narrative thread here, but there was another reason for that which was Chris was such a pathetic example of the modern white male that the impression is that director Neil LaBute and his cohorts were only too pleased to see him backed into a corner by his tenets of life, which amounted to "don't rock the boat", making it incredible to the filmmakers that he had ever got together with Lisa at all.

Anything such as a deep and abiding love and respect for each other was sneered at by the movie, as they went as far as they could to depict their union as a sham based on unspoken concerns about society's prejudices and their own unadmitted misgivings. Any connection between this and the way that most people treat mixed race couples in real life was easily dismissed when it fast became clear this was going all out for schlocky suspense rather than any grand statements about the world we live in. But that merely highlighted the hypocrisy of bringing the issue up in the first place, as there were still some fooled into thinking they had settled down to watch a serious-minded work.

The fact that it was LaBute directing this, his first film after The Wicker Man revealed him to be one of the worst directors ever to be treated with respect for "daring" to say things others did not, should have set off alarm bells in those who had seen his previous travesty. At least Jackson added a spot of charisma in a thankless bogeyman role, but by the time you had reached the denouement you may well have given up on the whole movie, featuring as it did with crushing inevitability the man on man showdown between Abel and Chris. There was some mileage in the neighbours from hell plot, but to be fair it was difficult not to lapse into over the top melodrama as tempers rose and nerves frayed, which was precisely the trap Lakeview Terrace fell straight into, making it all the more irksome that the grave agenda this had was a farce of its own making. There was a reason problems like this were not brought up in thrillers like this when it made them look stupid. Music by Jeff Danna and Mychael Danna.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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