Lakeview Terrace

3 out of 5

Directed by: Neil LaBute

An impressively terse thriller that ratchets up the typical “creepy neighbor next door” tension by swirling things with some potentially potent race commentary.  …Unfortunately, this ends up being a lot of bluster – something the film dances around endlessly – and then the flick has nowhere to go except off the deep end into ante-upping ridiculousness.  This is truly at the very end of the flick, though, so we’re not taken out of things for too much of the runtime; however, once it’s all said and done, standing back from the film proves how its overall toothlessness renders the whole setup rather flat as well.

But, fair enough, that’s applied context after-the-fact; in film, it does its job as entertainment.  And I guess one could note that wikipedia bills this as a “black comedy,” but I really think that’s some retroactive genre-ing.

Interracial couple Chris and Lisa Mattson (Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington) move into their new home in LA.  It shouldn’t matter that they’re interracial, but it seems to to everyone: Lisa’s judgmental father, Chris’ ignorant friends, and most importantly, next door neighbor (and cop) Abel Turner (Samuel L. Jackson).  After some delightfully uncomfortable repartee between Abel and Chris, the Mattson’s begin to suspect Abel’s hostility toward them.  While Turner does try (and at points succeed) in driving an emotional wedge between the couple, something to appreciate about Lakeview Terrace’s approach is that it doesn’t play too much of the he-said/she-said game, and generally unites both husband and wife against Abel.  This upfrontness, combined with the flick’s constant poking and prodding at race relationships from various perspectives – the profiling inherent in Turner’s job; the casual day-to-day racism most of us will never experience or perhaps even recognize – is what elevates things, alongside the solid performances from the leads.  As mentioned, though, David Loughery’s script leads nowhere new, and we end on this being very much just a standard (if, for most of its runtime, effective) thriller.