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Overall Rating
2.57

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 4.76%
Average64.29%
Pretty Bad: 14.29%
Total Crap: 16.67%

5 reviews, 12 user ratings


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Lakeview Terrace
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Racist drivel at its core. McCain has a new campaign video."
1 stars

For the most part, Samuel L. Jackson exudes not only hipness and badassery but rationality. He says something, and it rings with sharp authority. So when he plays someone mean and irrational, he can be frightening indeed ó if the script supports him.

It doesnít in Lakeview Terrace, an ugly thriller unredeemed by any insight or depth. Even its paltry ironies feel secondhand, and I donít think it earns the right to play with racial/racist emotions the way it does.

Jackson is Abel Turner, a sportively vicious L.A. cop who makes life miserable for his new neighbors in a posh suburb, who happen to be a mixed-race couple, Chris and Lisa Mattson (Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington). Abel hates them ó particularly Chris ó pretty much on sight, for reasons eventually made clear in a clumsy speech. Deranged by twenty-eight years on the force and by his wifeís death ó and its (to him) suspicious circumstances ó Abel is a rigid, single-minded psycho with a badge, a cross between Denzel Washington in Training Day and Ray Liotta in Unlawful Entry. If he messes with you, what are you gonna do, call the police? For a while, Jacksonís devastating contempt for the weak white man and his too-good-for-a-black-man wife carries Lakeview Terrace. But only for a while.

On the surface, this is yet another troublemaker courtesy of director Neil LaBute, who started out strafing art-house audiences with corrosive autopsies of hollow yuppies (In the Company of Men, etc.) and came a cropper two years ago with the legendarily laughable Wicker Man remake. If LaButeís Wicker Man said that we shouldnít trust women with power, Lakeview Terrace (which he did not write) comes dangerously close to saying that we shouldnít trust black men with power, either. (John McCain must be cheerful about the filmís timing.) In truth, the only person in the movie obsessed with race is Abel, whose mind swims with resentments real and imagined. Chris and Lisa make out in their pool in full view of Abel and his two children, which is bad, but then Abel extrapolates that into the corruptive influence of the liberal, valueless universe they come from. His biblical name is likely not incidental.

All right, itís a tense situation that allows Jackson to be menacing with impunity (though only as far as a PG-13 rating will allow). Itís raw red meat for him to chew on, but itís also rancid meat. People have made much of the similarities to Unlawful Entry, but the more useful comparison is to 2002ís underrated Changing Lanes, in which Jackson and Ben Affleck had a fierce battle of wills that came out of their finely-drawn characters and didnít lead to a climax involving gunfire and wildfires. Jackson was more subdued there, his rage more credible. Here, Abel only acts human whenever he wants to manipulate Chris back into his confidence; he remains a caustic mastermind throughout, and I couldnít figure out why Chris and Lisa show up at a party at Abelís house late in the game when what they should be doing is looking at the real-estate ads. (And if a drug-addled punk Abel roughs up mid-film is astute enough to get Internal Affairs on Abel's ass, what's stopping the college-educated couple from doing so?)

This is as stupid, hollow, and irresponsible a movie as any Iíve seen, and Iíve seen Ilsa: She-Wolf of the SS. Put a gun in a black manís hand and a badge on his chest and heíll abuse the power, just as in Training Day. I suppose itís nice that Denzel Washington and Samuel L. Jackson feel weíve come along far enough as a society that they, prominent black actors, can play hateful villains and not have to be Sidney Poitier in every movie. But whatís the difference between these characters theyíve played and the pop-eyed animalistic Negros in the Klan-glorifying Birth of a Nation 93 years ago? Style?

The spectre of the angry, powerful black man has unhinged this country for centuries, it bids fair to influence the upcoming election as well, and hereís Sony Screen Gems merrily churning a cheap thriller out of it. "Lakeview Terrace" made me mad, and not in the way it intended to.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=17046&reviewer=416
originally posted: 09/22/08 06:46:41
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User Comments

9/16/17 morris campbell realistic but nothing special 3 stars
1/31/10 randy todger pretty good 4 stars
7/29/09 mr.mike Worth seeing....on Starz. 4 stars
6/02/09 aliceinwonderland Amusing Thriller, good acting. 3 stars
2/01/09 action movie fan good idea with some tense scenes but not the rising line needed for effectiveness 3 stars
1/25/09 Jon G woulda got 4 if it didnt pull the race card 3 stars
1/01/09 Man Out 6 Bucks Miscast Jackson 90% chillin & not Eastwood. Overly agitated Chris oozes Berkeley PC hubris 3 stars
12/21/08 Shaun Wallner Not as great as I thought it was gonna be 3 stars
12/20/08 Bubdylan Well, SOME black cops like Abel do exist. Saying so doesn't make it racist. 3 stars
12/06/08 Jack Sommersby A third-rate rendition of the second-rate "Unlawful Entry". 1 stars
11/05/08 damalc excellent acting all around, but kinda preposterous 3 stars
9/26/08 PAUL SHORTT BY CONFRONTING RACIAL ISSUES OF MANY VARIETIES, THIS IS A FINE WORK OF SOCIAL COMMENTARY 3 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  19-Sep-2008 (PG-13)
  DVD: 27-Jan-2009

UK
  N/A

Australia
  19-Sep-2008
  DVD: 27-Jan-2009




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