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LAKEVIEW TERRACE, 2008
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LAKEVIEW TERRACE
Movie Review
Directed by Neil LaBute
Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Patrick Wilson, Kerry Washington
Review by Eli Manning



SYNOPSIS:

An LAPD officer (Jackson) will stop at nothing to force out the interracial couple who just moved in next door.

REVIEW:

Director Neil LaBute has definitely had an extreme hit and miss career so far. His first foray into the film-making world was the independent festival favorite 'In the Company of Men' (a film that jump-started Aaren Eckhart's career). A film that was praised by everyone and is really a landmark movie as the two protagonists in the film are perhaps the two worst human beings/lead characters in movie history. He then made the underrated 'Your Friend's and Neighbors' and 'Nurse Betty', two films that deserve a screening if you haven't seen them. Both films that were done on very low budgets and became tiny commercial hits.

Then the 90's ended and so did his career in many ways as LaBute struggled to find an audience with his Hollywood funded projects. 'Possession' (an underrated film) bombed. Then he took his off-broadway play, 'In the Shape of Things', and turned it into a film, and it bombed too! But he really hit rock bottom with the critical and commercial flop 'The Wicker Man' (a film that even almost ruined star Nicolas Cage's career).

After that you thought LaBute would just go back to writing and directing plays in New York. But for some reason he was asked, and he accepted, to direct (not write) Lakeview Terrace. An interesting choice from afar but when you watch the film you see why he was chosen.

LaBute and/or the screenwriters decided to shoot the film from the point of view of our antagonist Police Officer Abel Turner (Samuel L. Jackson) instead of the easy choice of the

interracial couple (Patrick Wilson, Kerry Washington), who end up being subtly terrorized by Mr. Turner. From scene #1 we are inside of the world of Abel and we the audience see things from his perspective. In Hollywood movie-land I can't seem to find one past example of this happening, where we follow the bad guy around instead of the good guy in a Thriller type of genre.

And that's the point in Lakeview Terrace. The conflict is a black and white issue, but Abel Turner is not a black and white character. He's gotten a tad misguided for many reasons we find out and therefore we understand why he is who he is, eventhough most of us still won't root for him.

This film also easily could of gone into the Cape Fearesque journey and sensationalize this inner conflict, but it also didn't do that. People really aren't that cartoon and stupid to be as over the top as Hollywood tends to show us. Lakeview Terrace stays in reality and that's why it's so chilling to watch. These are real characters who live in a life that's not as black and white as their skin color is.

It's a scary world sometimes because people like Abel Turner are the law. There are many Police Officers out there who carry a gun and are suppose to protect us, but in reality they've been so jaded by the job, that we're the ones who need to be protected from them. That's just the facts of life and if you understand what the many Police Officers in the world have gone through and seen, you can understand why they are who they are.

This isn't an anti-cop film. It's definitely an anti Los Angeles film that's for sure! But Lakeview Terrace is really a film about how people stay with the same thoughts they've had since they were very young and really resist the changes and progressions the world is bringing us. There are easy things to shoot down and judge during progression, but in any movement there are always bumps along the way. And that's what keeps people like Abel Turner locked in his own ideals. That and the pains of his past. Samuel L. Jackson Lakeview Terrace

Abel doesn't like that his new neighbors are an interracial couple. And that judgment leads to a serious of events that will effect people's lives forever. And again, this is all filmed from the point of view of the person doing the judging. And it's fascinating to watch why he does the things that he does.

The Production Design and Cinematography in this film is top notch. Just the subtle ways of showing both houses enhances the thriller aspect and drama of Lakeview Terrace. And I've never seen a more interesting and unique way of how they show us Los Angeles. The city streets are as uncomfortable and unsteady as Abel is. This is a world we the audience don't want to be in.

Unfortunately there is a silly plot point in the 3rd act that deals with a cell phone that really turned this reviewer off. You know that turning point moment in the movie that happens only because many people have to be very stupid? Lakeview Terrace has this moment. You sort of wished that the screenwriting team could of come up with a more clever moment. This plot point needs to happen in order to complete the film, but I wish that they were just more clever with it.

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Bottom line though, Lakeview Terrace is a movie you should go see. Solely for it's originality in the way it's filmed. And also because Neil LaBute deserves a break and the only way he can probably do another film is if this film becomes a minor hit. He's a unique talent and I don't think he's hit his peak yet.

And I can't remember when Samuel L. Jackson has been better. He's a master at playing those nice guy on the surface but real dark edge if you get closer characters. Those type of people you're fascinated to watch and observe but never in a million years want to meet. He's always interested in playing the hero type of roles, but that's not his thing. His performance in Lakeview Terrace is his thing and he needs to stick to it.

3 stars out of 4!center>

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