By Mack Chico
Rated: PG-13 for intense thematic material, violence, sexuality, language and some drug references.
Release Date: 2008-09-19
Starring: David Loughery, Howard Korder
Official Website: http://www.sonypictures.com/movies/lakeviewterrace/
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Lakeview Terrace is the latest thriller from Neil LaBute. LaBute began his filmmaking career with the scathing In the Company of Men, but his previous effort was the deservedly reviled remake of The Wicker Man. While Lakeview Terrace isn’t as horrendous as The Wicker Man, it’s nowhere close to the level LaBute attained with his debut. The first two-thirds of Lakeview Terrace offer a little more subtlety and complexity than the seemingly straightforward premise would afford, but the climax is loud, dumb, generic, and over-the-top. Those hoping for something more interesting will be disappointed by the level to which the filmmaker stoops to get an unearned visceral rush. In pandering to Hollywood standards about how stories like this should unfold, LaBute has lost his edge.
The story goes like this: a young couple (Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington) has just moved into their California dream home when they become the target of their next-door neighbor, who disapproves of their interracial relationship. A stern, single father, this tightly wound LAPD officer (Samuel L. Jackson) has appointed himself the watchdog of the neighborhood. His nightly foot patrols and overly watchful eyes bring comfort to some, but he becomes increasingly harassing to the newlyweds. These persistent intrusions into their lives ultimately turn tragic when the couple decides to fight back.
The film’s last fifteen minutes are so over-the-top that they’re almost impossible to take seriously and Abel’s motivation during a critical sequence near the conclusion is difficult to fathom. It’s the kind of thing that results from a screenwriter not knowing how to end a movie. Considering that the screenwriter in question is David Loughery, the man who was in part responsible for Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising. Meanwhile, Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington are okay as the couple in the crossfire but, in comparison to Jackson, they’re boring. That’s the problem with sharing the screen with a man who’s a force of nature.
There are times when Lakeview Terrace seems to be striving for something more interesting than the basic “cop from hell” movie, but any pretensions it may have of escaping this orbit come crashing down as the script veers more and more into generic territory. Going in, you might think you know how it’s going to end, and you’d probably be right. If LaBute sews some doubts along the way, it’s a testament to the way the first half of the film is constructed. It’s too bad the movie’s moderately intriguing qualities are buried under the final half-hour’s avalanche of predictability.