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A formulaic mix of "Unlawful Entry" and "Changing Lanes",
This review is from: Lakeview Terrace [DVD]  (DVD)
A mix between "Unlawful Entry" and "Changing Lane's", director Neil Labute's thriller "Lakeview Terrace" is an attempt to take the racial tensions still prevalent in the U.S. And turn them on their head with the antagonist in this case not the white individual but an African-American, a not so often used conceit which makes for an interesting hook but does nothing to elevate this above mediocrity.
Interracial couple Chris and Lisa Mattson (Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington) are new home-owners who move next door to Abel Turner, an African-American police officer with the LAPD and father of two who has a short temper. Disapproving of their mixed race relationship, Turner proceeds to make the young couples life a living hell and stops at nothing to try and get them to move away from the neighbourhood.
All simple and without the movie's "novelty" of being "a reverse racism" the film really does little to break new ground in the race or the antagonistic nightmare neighbour from hell hell sub-genre.
It's safe to say that with a contentious subject the film has It's likely to provoke mixed respones from the postive to the negative but with the melting pot of racism you can't always expect diplomacy or understanding in the minds of others. This is something that of-course comes to the fore on a occasion although not to any great degree with Chris and father in law Harold played by
veteran actor Ron Glass. Little titbits at the double standards and racism held some blacks are
thrown in, presumably to further point out that disharmony between the races Isn't always just a one way street and in the sense the film can be commended but in the end all it is is simple window dressing.
Getting off to a slow start the movie begins to slightly pick up the pace and there are strong sold turns from both Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington as the unsuspecting nice couple who want to make a life for themselves. The growing antagonism between them and Abel is is smoothly laid out between the three as not only does he manage to somehow harass them to the extent that they resent him but personal issues in their relationship and nefarious manipulative swipes by Turner means that the friction begins to build in their relationship. It's all expertly handled by Labute a director who recovering from the critical mauling from his failed remake of "The Wicker Man" needed something to get him back in the game. Although a couple of notches presumably above from judging from reports of the film have told me, It's a film that can never get passed It's basic roots and although not a bad film in It's own right. Nods to Abels past and the loss of his dead wife offer nice little insights to his personality and his bitter resentment as his shakey relationship with his children, particularly his daughter offer us hints to the kind of man he is who comes across as an embittered individual looking to place blame where potentially it Isn't to be placed. While scenes of how he deals with situations mirror his double standards when handling of his working environmental and home-life.
Ultimately though the set up proves to be greater than the outcome and all "Lakeview Terrace" proves to be is merely another standard run of the mill psycho-thriller which eventually descends in to the usual stand-off in the last act and although culminating in a effectively tense stand-off proves. For me what ultimately would have been better would have been if Labute not only focused on Abel's prejudice's but any of Chris's latent racial hostility which would have upped the ante and created a stir within the all three of the main characters and those among them. That would have created even more racial tension not only with Abel but between Chris and Lisa which would have been a an explosive story arc which lamentably is never explored to any great deal apart from some mildly heated inter-play.
Jackson who is given top billing is effective enough and proves to be a dominating presence but his performance Isn't a far cry from the the strong, alpha male types that we have seen him play before and doesn't mark this out from being one of his better acting roles utlimately meaning that the film in this respect belongs to both Wilson and Washington who inhabit superior roles. Ultimately "Lakeview Terrace" is just another case of been there and see it thrillers that tries to cover up It's thin premise by exploiting social and racial tensions with passably workmanlike reasults.