Beware of your neighbors

Associated Press

With the power finally coming back on in our neighborhoods, the great Blackout of ’08 is wrapping up. It was a challenging time for the tri-state area and stories of good Samaritans around the community have not gone unnoticed. This is perfect timing for a movie about two neighbors acting very unneighborly.

Lakeview Terrace,” starring Samuel L. Jackson as Abel Turner is advertised as just that. From watching the trailers, the viewer is left with the idea that this is a movie about a cop with anger management and control issues creating mayhem for his newlywed neighbors who just moved in, played by Patrick Wilson (Chris) and Kerry Washington (Lisa).

Instead as you sit snug in your seat, you will find that this is not quite the movie you expected. Buckle up folks, it’s time to keep your arms and legs inside for the duration of the ride, we’re about to watch a movie about racism.

In a nutshell, the big angry black cop doesn’t take to kindly to the white man married to a Nubian princess next door. This stems from a later confession that his own ex-wife was possibly having an affair with a white man, while they were together. There is no way he is going to stand this cigarette smoking, rap listening, college educated white liberal living next door to him. Abel Turner is going to show him who exactly is the man in Lakeview Terrace, and possibly save a sister in need.

And that is where this film falls flat on its face. Spread too thin would be more apt a description of this plot. The director, Neil LaBute (In the Company of Men, The Wicker Man), takes far too long setting the stage for the main action. At points it feels like he wants the audience to be empathetic to the plight of Abel. He is a cop and single father trying to raise two kids in this mad, mad, mad world. Wait, this is Lakeview Terrace not Falling Down. Samuel L. Jackson does do the best he can with what he was given here, but comes off just not quite that heavy.

On the other side of the coin are our newlyweds who just moved into the neighborhood. Both are accomplished actors: Patrick Wilson did a phenomenal job in the indie classic Hard Candy, and Kerry Washington can be seen in Ray and The Last King of Scotland. The pair lack chemistry on screen – they just aren’t believable as a couple.

The backdrop to all of this is a good old Californian brush fire heading directly towards our happy little cul-de-sac of hate. As the fire closes in, the temperatures flare and shenanigans ensue. The plot boils to a climatic ending that leaves the audience either happy the film is over or possibly confused, “That’s it? It all came down to that?”

Save your cash and if you have to see this film, wait for it to hit the budget theaters. The premise for the film could have been a great popcorn thriller. With LaBute directing, the film could have gone another direction and been a great commentary on the changing views of inter-racial couples in modern America. Instead the film attempted to be both and failed to accomplish either.

Lakeview Terrace, now playing in theaters is rated PG-13 for intense thematic material, violence, sexuality, language, and some drug references. The running time is one hour, 46 minutes.