You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Lakeview Terrace

"Lakeview Terrace" delivers fairly tense and engrossing drama before succumbing to thriller convention.

Abel Turner - Samuel L. Jackson Chris Mattson - Patrick Wilson Lisa Mattson - Kerry Washington Harold Perreau - Ron Glass Donnie Eaton - Justin Chambers Javier Villareal - Jay Hernandez Celia Turner - Regine Nehy Marcus Turner - Jaishon Fisher Captain Wentworth - Robert Pine Clarence Darlington - Keith Loneker Damon Richards - Caleeb Pinkett

Bearing notable similarities to a well-publicized recent case in which a black Los Angeles police officer was accused of serially harassing neighbors — particularly interracially married ones — “Lakeview Terrace” delivers fairly tense and engrossing drama before succumbing to thriller convention. Samuel L. Jackson’s compelling turn as one kind of neighbor almost nobody wants should magnetize some critical favor and aud interest. But as a queasy examination of black/white dynamics, poised between character study and genre piece, director Neil LaBute’s latest is likely to score medium B.O. closer to that of 2002’s “Changing Lanes” than starry hit “Crash.”

Cop Abel Turner (Jackson), the widowed father of two children (Regine Nehy, Jaishon Fisher) kept on a tight disciplinary leash, is at first just mildly interested when moving vans pull up to the house next door. But his expression changes when a smooch identifies Chris (Patrick Wilson) as husband to Lisa (Kerry Washington) — and we quickly discern that for whatever reason, Abel does not look favorably on a white man and a black woman as spouses.

At first, Abel’s nastily instructive sense of humor (he introduces himself to Chris by feigning an armed carjacking) seem, just possibly, misconstrued. Kept awake each night by Abel’s security lights glaring into their bedroom window, the couple accept his sorry-I-forgot excuses. They don’t jump to conclusions when their air-conditioning system appears sabotaged.

But by the time someone breaks into their garage and slashes Chris’ tires, Abel has made it crystal-clear he wants them out of the neighborhood — and that running to his police breathren won’t likely help.

As relations deteriorate further between the two houses, the tension exacerbates already existing conflicts for Lisa and Chris, while Abel’s heavy-handed notions about meting out “justice” on the job get him in hot water — not for the first time, apparently. Meanwhile, another drought year brings wildfires ever closer to this upper-middle-class enclave.

The gradually escalating campaign of harassment, humiliations and payback sounds like something LaBute might have written himself. But this time, he’s just in the director’s seat for a screenplay by David Loughery (his first produced in 15 years) and Howard Korder from Loughery’s story. Notably, the pic was produced by Will Smith and his usual producing partner, James Lassiter.

If the dialogue and personalities here had aped the savagery of LaBute’s stage and early screen scripts (“In the Company of Men,” “Your Friends and Neighbors”), “Lakeview Terrace” might have tipped into caricature, or at least black-comedy terrain. But the handling on all sides — most crucially Jackson’s — is judiciously understated.

Until the end, that is. Coda could be worse, but nonetheless disappoints by bringing on mortal home-invasion peril like so many more formulaic thrillers. There’s also a fadeout affirmation of family values that feels knee-jerkingly obvious.

Abel is perhaps too mercurial on the written page for full credibility, decrying scanty female dress and rap music one minute, hosting strippers and a blaring house party the next. Still, Jackson’s astutely measured turn does a lot to muffle such doubts, at least until the viewer has time for hindsight scrutiny.

The pic was primarily shot in the affluent L.A. County burg of Walnut (whose population is, in fact, Asian-American by a slim majority). The widescreen presentation is clean and unfussy, recalling the minimalist aesthetic of LaBute’s first films without quite replicating their severity.

The excellent Washington ably fills out a character who’s less than fully sketched; less so Wilson, who’s both solid and indistinct, continuing his screen path of being very good in morally ambiguous roles (“Hard Candy,” “Little Children”) but bland in straight-arrow ones (“The Phantom of the Opera,” “Evening”).

Among the supporting cast, only Ron Glass, as Lisa’s father, and Nehy, as the teenage daughter chafing under Abel’s rigid control, have the space to make a real impression in the tightly focused script.

Tech package is expert.

Lakeview Terrace

Production: A Sony Pictures Entertainment release of a Screen Gems presentation of an Overbrook Entertainment production. Produced by Will Smith, James Lassiter. Executive producers, Joe Pichirallo, John Cameron, David Loughery, Jeffrey Graup. Co-producer, Orin Woinsky. Directed by Neil LaBute. Screenplay, David Loughery, Howard Korder, from a story by Loughery.

Crew: Camera (Deluxe color), Rogier Stoffers; editor, Joel Plotch; music, Mychael Danna, Jeff Danna; production designer, Bruton Jones; art directors, Tom T. Taylor, Paul Sonski; set designer, Mick Cukurs; set decorator, Don Diers; costume designer, Lynette Meyer; sound (Dolby Digital/SDDS/DTS), Lee Orloff; supervising sound editor, Ronald Eng; visual effects supervisor, Rocco Passionino; visual effects, Zoic Studios; stunt coordinator, Ben Bray; assistant director, Donald A. Murphy; casting, Heidi Levitt. Reviewed at Variety Club screening room, San Francisco, Aug. 7, 2008. MPAA Rating: PG-13. (In Deauville American Film Festival.) Running time: 106 MIN.

With: Abel Turner - Samuel L. Jackson Chris Mattson - Patrick Wilson Lisa Mattson - Kerry Washington Harold Perreau - Ron Glass Donnie Eaton - Justin Chambers Javier Villareal - Jay Hernandez Celia Turner - Regine Nehy Marcus Turner - Jaishon Fisher Captain Wentworth - Robert Pine Clarence Darlington - Keith Loneker Damon Richards - Caleeb Pinkett

More Film

  • Playwright Mark Medoff author of "Children

    Mark Medoff, 'Children of a Lesser God' Playwright, Dies at 79

    Mark Medoff, the playwright who wrote Tony Award-winning play “Children of a Lesser God,” died Tuesday in Las Cruces, N.M. He was 79. His daughter Jessica Medoff Bunchman posted news of his death on Facebook, and the Las Cruces Sun-News attributed the cause to cancer. “Children of a Lesser God” starred John Rubinstein and Phyllis Frelich [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Interscope Films Relaunches With Full Slate at Tribeca (EXCLUSIVE)

    The Interscope record label’s interest in film/music crossover isn’t exactly a secret: With hit companion albums for “A Star Is Born,” “Black Panther” and “La La Land,” they’ve seemed to own the soundtrack space at times in recent years. And the company hasn’t completely made a secret of its desire to move into film production. [...]

  • Avengers: Endgame

    'Avengers: Endgame': Fans and Theaters Assemble for Biggest Marvel Movie Ever

    For San Diego resident Shawn Richter, “Avengers: Endgame” is more than the conclusion to a monumental period in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As the West Coast branch chair of Avengers Initiative, a cosplay charity that raises money for causes like the Ronald McDonald House Children’s Charities, the comics of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby are [...]

  • Jillian Bell appears in Brittany Runs

    Amazon's 'Brittany Runs a Marathon' Sets Summer Release

    “Brittany Runs a Marathon” will be rushing to theaters on Aug. 23. Amazon Studios dated the comedy on Wednesday. The pic, starring Jillian Bell (“Rough Night,” “22 Jump Street”), won the audience award at the Sundance Film Festival. The flick follows the titutal Brittany, who decides to run around New York City in order to [...]

  • Lionsgate Hires Lynn Whitney in Marketing

    Lionsgate Hires Former Warner Bros. Exec Lynn Whitney

    Lionsgate announced Wednesday that Lynn Whitney will become head of worldwide paid media, partnerships, promotions and consumer products. Whitney was formerly the executive VP of worldwide media at Warner Bros.   In her new role, Whitney will build out media campaigns for movies like Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron’s romantic comedy “Long Shot.” “I am [...]

  • El silencio de otros

    Film Review: 'The Silence of Others'

    “Forgiven but not forgotten” is a platitude we routinely use to end disputes both petty and grievous, but it’s the reverse outcome — the mass forgetting of crimes and conflicts never truly resolved — that itches away at a post-Franco Spain in “The Silence of Others.” Soberly chronicling the ongoing legal battle of General Franco’s [...]

  • A Womans Work-The NFLs Cheerleader Problem

    Tribeca Documentaries Explore Gender Issues in Sport

    Up until recently, what it meant to be a professional female athlete in a world dominated by men wasn’t an issue that garnered high volumes of public interest, let alone national headlines. But that all changed in October 2017 when stories from the New York Times and the New Yorker detailing sexual allegations and improper [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content