Friday, September 19, 2008

Subpar Script Hurts Lakeview Terrace

Let’s face it; the next door neighbor from hell routine has played itself out in film, television, and everyday life. Lakeview Terrace is director Neil LaBute’s attempt to reenergize the concept by throwing handfuls of social commentary of the racist fashion into the mix.

In this dramatic thriller, Samuel L. Jackson plays single father and L.A.P.D. officer Abel Turner who just can’t get over the fact that his new neighbors Chris and Lisa Mattson, played by Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington, are an interracial couple. Taking things into his own hands, Turner terrorizes the couple in an attempt to push them out of the neighborhood.

Lakeview Terrace never really crosses the threshold into being the shocking film about racism that it so desperately tries to be. Held back by a PG-13 rating and a script that is both lazy and subpar, director Neil LaBute is only really able to touch the tip of the iceberg on the subject. The film tends to slowly move along with both subtle and obvious racist comments here and there from antagonist Abel Turner which generates some sort of retaliatory response from the neighbors. Rarely does the film ever delve deep into anything of substance as it merely stays on the surface as a preachy yet shallow representation of our culture’s problems. None of the characters are truly developed leaving no one to sincerely care for. This is a major problem for a film of such sensitive material.

As the film progresses towards the climax and conclusion the script reaches a heightened level of senseless stupidity and absurdity. All in one fell swoop everything the film had going for it, which wasn’t much, as a completely serious and believable film is gone. Thanks to one unnecessary plot movement the story runs into a brick wall and falls flat on its face during its most tense moments. Terrace runs at a long 110 minutes yet it still feels like it was wrapped up all too suddenly and in the most ridiculous way.

All is not for lost though. Samuel L. Jackson is perfectly casted as Abel Turner. Jackson’s signature rip roaring and biting dialectic style returns along with his ever so intimidating glares. He adds more to this lackluster script than anything else in the film does. Fans of Samuel L. Jackson will enjoy his performance and it makes the viewing of this film at least worth something. The film also has enough thrilling and entertaining moments, albeit most of the times less than spectacular, to keep the viewer watching.

Lakeview Terrace is a film with an identity crisis. It moves from serious drama to ridiculous cookie cutter thriller with a B-movie feel. It never reaches the level it desires in terms of shock and its exploitative juices never get flowing. To his credit, Neil LaBute did what he could with a bad script and regains some credit after his horrendous debacle with his 2006 remake of The Wicker Man which turned into an unintentional comedy.

Terrace is better off staying away from unless you simply can’t get enough of Samuel L. Jackson. Nothing outside of him works that well in this film and it all comes crashing down before it ends. This film does nothing other films about racial tension haven’t already done better. If you are curious at all about this film save your money and time for now and wait until it hits DVD.


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