Saturday, September 20, 2008
REVIEW: Lakeview Terrace...
Some directors love to make you squirm. Lakeview Terrace is the new race relations/cop thriller from director Neil Labute, most famous for In The Company Of Men, and the 2006 remake of The Wicker Man. Directors such as Mr. Labute and others like David Fincher and David Lynch, have become famous for among other things, making the audience watching their films, extremely uncomfortable, and Lakeview Terrace is no different. While I did not like Niel Labute's last film, The Wicker Man, In The Company of Men is a great film, and I have a lot of respect for him. Not only that, but the film features a great cast, including Kerry Washington, Patrick Wilson, and Samuel L. Jackson, so I went into this flick with a lot of anticipation. However, was this anticipation met?
Lakeview Terrace is a film that looks at something that many films, such as the heavy handed Crash, have been looking at, race relations. It is a story about Chris and Lisa Mattson, a mixed race couple, who have recently purchased a new house right in Lakeview Terrace. Abel Turner (Jackson), a widower, is a father of two and a 28 year veteran of the LAPD. He's also the couple's next door neighbor. Abel is a wound up man and a stern father, who has taken the saftey of his neighborhood on his shoulder. He goes on nightly, neighborhood patrols, and while many people around the area thank Mr. Turner for this inconvinence, the couple begins to feel harrassed by the man. As the intrusions in their lives increase, the couple feels threatened, and fight back. However, as the trailer says, Abel has the color card on his side, with that color being blue.
The performances in this film are top notch. Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington are great as the madly in love newlyweds, and Samuel L. Jackson proves that while he's a great character, his acting chops can really back up his charisma and charm. However, this is not your typical Samuel L. Jackson. Not the comical, charismatic hitman. Not the comical, charismatic snake fighter. Not the Jedi Master. This is a different type of character Jackson is portraying. He's portrays this off the handle widower with such conviction and passion, that you really feel that there is nothing that can turn this man off of his beliefs. The interchanges between Wilson and Jackson are some of the most tense scenes I've had a chance to see all year. The couple have problems, but they will not break their love for one another just because of one mans outside presence. The two have their own life goals, and they are not afraid to send the fight right back at him.
Also, I have a little personal beef to pick with some critics. There has been much a complaining about the editing of this film. During most of this flick, the camera is set in a discussion, and when the said discussion ends, often very awkwardly and dark, the camera continues to run for two or three beats. I am not one to notice editing in a film, when montoges are not in the discussion, but this is some of the most interesting editing I've seen. Many people feel as though it's sloppy and therefore it takes the quality of the film down, but I have to completely disagree. The fact that the film continues to run for a few beats after the event occurs, really adds to the overall mood of this film. This is a dark film, especially for a PG-13 rating, although it's dark in it's subject matter, not it's tone. There is not much violence, not much cursing, but the themes in this film are a little more heavy than people may think this film is. Is the fact that the newlyweds are blatant about their love to eachother that makes him angry at the two? Is it the fact that the two had sex in their pool? Or could it be that the two are a mixed race couple that has turned him as a provocateur to the loving couple? Couple this neighborhood "fire" with a real life fire threatening the entire local area, and you have the makings for a really solid thriller. However, the film does have a few flaws.
The film, while having a really interesting and heavier premise, feels like it fell right out of the clouds of cliche, at least the last 20 minutes. Right when the film was really getting at something, it settled for a basic thriller ending. This is a pretty paint by numbers thriller, that feels like a mix of Crash and Disturbia, minus a few storylines. It's not as heavy handed as Crash was, but the way it deals with race is very similar, and it's shot like Disturbia in a glossy sort of way, with a dark pallet, and bright colors that pop right off the screen. The score is pretty minimal, with one real piece that plays in the typical moments that you would expect.
That said, this is still a really interesting and solid film. It's "neighbor from hell" premise is something that is normally seen in comedy, and the way LaBute takes this tried and true story idea and flips in into a heavy and wiggle in your seat thriller, is something interesting to watch. The editing may make you uncomfortable, but that's the point. The script is a little heavy handed, but the performances given to it are solid, especially from the two male leads, Wilson and Jackson. The film may be paint by numbers, but the design that it makes when your done is something worth waiting for.
LAKEVIEW TERRACE: 7.5/10
Great performances, solid story, and interesting filmmaking make this precedural thriller something worth hunting down, at least in your local rental shop. It's better than most of the drek out today, so if you haven't seen Burn After Reading and Vicki Christina Barcelona, please, give this flick a shot.
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