September 18, 2008

Lakeview Terrace

Time for Lasik and a diet

Grade: C –

Director: Neil LaBute

Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Patrick Wilson, Kerry Washington, and Ron Glass

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 1 hour, 50 minutes

For fun, squint hard and trying seeing Lakeview Terrace as an examination of the disparate viewpoints on Obamamania. In one corner, we have the GOP bogeyman: an intelligent, upper-middle class African-American wielding authority. Across the ring is a lefty, Prius-driving, multi-culti archetype besieged by society’s prejudices and governmental intrusion into their private lives.

Trust me, that correlation not nearly as silly as this ugly, unpleasant thriller about a widowed LAPD cop, Abel Turner, (Samuel L. Jackson), who unleashes his anti-miscegenation demons onto an interracial couple – Chris (Patrick Wilson) and Lisa (Kerry Washington – who moves next-door. A devoted yet domineering dad, Abel demands his children use proper diction and sport a Shaq jersey instead of Kobe’s (presumably because of the race of their women). Never mind that Abel’s knuckle-dragging bigotry somehow exempts his extrageneous coworkers or other neighbors. Or, despite the offense to his puritan values when his kids witness the new neighbors canoodling in their pool, he still hosts a bachelor party littered with booze and strippers.

Chris courts Abel’s wrath by merely moving into his cul-de-sac, magnified by Abel’s annoyance at Chris’ penchant for rap music and his nasty habit of flicking cigarette butts onto Abel’s lawn. The standard neighbor-terror genre melds with a Training Day knockoff that grows more cartoonish by the minute, partly thanks to Jackson’s pauchy, menacing-stare slide into self-parody.

The true sin of Lakeview Terrace, directed by the filmmaker formerly known as Neil LaBute (a long, long way from In The Company of Men) is that it is neither insightful social commentary nor an entertaining, sensible thriller. Frankly, it plays more like a bastard vignette from Crash left on the cutting room floor because even Paul Haggis thought it was too heavy-handed.

There is a far more provocative, intelligent movie to be made out of Lisa’s affluent father (Ron Glass) and his disapproval of her choice of husband. Unfortunately, that subplot is subsumed by Abel’s increasingly irrational antics and LaBute’s half-hearted attempts to rationalize them. Through it all is the metaphor of an encroaching wildfire that, like this mistake of a movie, ultimately produces lots of smoke but few visible flames.

Neil Morris

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Remember "Domestic Disturbance" with Ray Liotta?

The trailers reminded me of that. Anywho.

I havent seen this one, but I did see "The Family That Preys" and I typically HATE Tyler Perry and his "movies" but this one was actually good.

Was interested to know if you though it was too, or if I was blinded by my stalkerish obsession with Sanaa and my hetero Man Crush on Cole Hauser.