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Lakeview Terrace

Lakeview Terrace

Total Film

December 2008

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Director Neil Labute
Starring Samuel L Jackson, Kerry Washington, Patrick Wilson, Jay Hernandez
Cert 15

Rating ***

Beware: there’s a savage, terrifying beast about to be unleashed into our midst. That’s right: Hollywood’s dusting off the home-invasion thriller and plonking it back into multiplexes.

We were plagued by a blight of ’em in the ’90s (Consenting Adults, The Hand That Rocks The Cradle, Pacific Heights) before they mercifully ran their course.

But if Lakeview Terrace is the throwback threatening to revive them, at least it comes with an accomplished admiral at its helm – to the heaving ranks of suburban psychos seeking to mangle some happy couple’s blissful domesticity, you can now add Samuel L Jackson’s Abel Turner.

He’s a widowed LA cop with questionable morals on the beat and oppressive house-general tactics at home.

But when an inter-racial couple (Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington) move in next door, he reacts with fuuurious anger, blitzing the new arrivals with late night security spotlights and “friendly” warnings about neighbourhood rules – before getting really stroppy on their asses…

No one mixes charm and menace with more satisfying panache than Jackson and he dines on his doolally lawman role like a famished lion gnawing on a wildebeest.

Plenty of tasty sparring too, with Wilson’s liberal do-gooder proving a more-than-able foil for Jackson’s enjoyably aggressive scene-chomping.

This is Neil LaBute’s second director-for-hire gig after Nurse Betty – and it shows. Surprising he didn’t try to stoke up the script’s darker, more caustic elements, rather than just apply a shimmering coat of Hollywood gloss.

But after the abject horror of his Wicker Man remake, perhaps he’s simply trying to rebuild confidence and / or some brownie points by directing Terrace with anonymous efficiency.

On the plus side, LaBute keeps the focus firmly on building up and paying off the tension in the film’s swiftly unravelling showdown. See this for Jackson and Wilson’s suburban duel, but hope it heralds better things to come from LaBute.

Lacking even a Changing Lanes level of insight into America’s racial partition, this old-school, domestic-invasion thriller still has Samuel L Jackson’s twisted enforcer to push the right buttons.

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