Lakeview Terrace

Murphy’s Law Flashes the Badge

Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Patrick Wilson

By Robert Patrick

There is no question about it that Samuel L. Jackson has a propensity for theatric performances. In director Neil LaBute’s Lakeview Terrace, Jackson further sharpens his vociferous attitude to the point of near satire. Jackson, playing as a Los Angeles police officer and single father of two, rehashes his serendipitous gift for being volatile, as he goes on a tyrannical rampage to destroy his neighbors’ lives.

Chris (Patrick Wilson) and Lisa Mattson (Kerry Washington) are moving to Lakeview Terrace, a seemingly quaint suburb in LA, to raise a family and begin a life together. Chris, worried about his father-in-law’s approval, is skeptical about the prospects of being accepted into Lisa’s family. Lisa, determined to evoke complacency with her husband, tries to convince him that their interracial marriage is a non-factor to the longevity of their happiness. Fortunately for our characters, their next door neighbor, Abel, is a closet racist with a penchant for condescension and rage.

Abel’s personality is a distortion of monarchist principalities and temperamental outbursts. When he is at home, he greets his children with an iron fist, but never refuses them ice cream. As a police officer, Abel is a cataclysm of impulse. The moralistic ambiguity of right and wrong get caught up in his incendiary mood swings. Abel tries to be good, but is too caustic of a person to listen to the rationality of others.

Chris and Lisa, unknowing of Abel’s fanatical tendencies, try to make good with their neighbor. This all changes when the couple put on an inadvertent public display of affection in front of Abel’s kids. Mortified by this carnal sin, Abel becomes a proprietor of ill will towards Chris, harming him whenever possible. Because our protagonists are idiotic beyond recognition, they keep believing that Abel, even after publicly humiliating and endangering them, is a good guy. I don’t know about you, but wouldn’t it be overtly distinguishable that your neighbor isn’t so nice after he continuously partakes in racist double entendres? If you were dumb, like Chris for instance, instead of pronouncing Abel unsafe, you would sit down at a bar with him and let the guy buy you drinks. In fact, all of these characters behave implausibly to their situations. Instead of having a wide variety of human emotions, our two leads are simply inert with disbelief, while our antagonist, Abel, is ceremoniously mean to them.

The biggest problem here, even worse than the character development, is the bloated length of this film. The necessitude of watching the same malevolent actions repeat themselves over and over, only so that we may watch variants of the outcomes, becomes an uncomfortable mimicry of bad taste. You can only watch Abel wrap a wooden ruler across Chris and Lisa’s knuckles for so long before you wince.

Here is a movie based on Murphy’s Law: if anything can go wrong, it will.

All in all, the ornery Jackson, in yet another chance to behave cavalierly, gets his opportunity here. Our characters, for nearly two hours, are subjected to Jackson’s trademark cornucopia of cursing, yelling, and fighting. If you like this type of movie – there, apparently, is no other for Jackson – you may want to see some of his previous work. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with his persona, I only wish that Jackson was in a movie despite of his personality, not because of it.


Author: Rob Patrick

The program director of the Olympia Film Society, Rob is also a former San Diego Film Critics Society member. He has written for The East County Californian, The Alpine Sun, The East County Herald, The San Diego Entertainer, and the San Diego Reader. When he isn't curating a film festival, he is drinking rosé out of a plastic cup in Seattle or getting tattoos from Jenn Champion.

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