Thursday, January 15, 2009

Lakeview Terrace (2008)

Movie quotes:
"You’re a weed, that’s what you are. A junkyard weed. Spray your ass with some Roundup."
- Abel (Samuel L. Jackson) to drug dealer

Chris (Patrick Wilson): We’re not moving
Abel: Whatever.

At a glance:
Samuel L. Jackson is one mean and troubled dude – and he’s the main reason to watch this race and class-driven feud between neighbors

Our review:
At first, Abel Turner (Samuel L. Jackson) seems like a normal enough guy. He’s a widower dad with two kids and maybe too many rules, but other than seeming a little depressed about his life (probably from losing his wife), he doesn’t otherwise seem like that bad a neighbor to have. But when an interracial couple (Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington) move in next door, he subjects them to his highly strict code of morals. The stress of a crazy neighbor complicates their own problems (with a little direct help from Abel), and soon their marriage is unraveling. As wildfires flare and advance on their neighborhood, the flames of their conflict are fanned and grow into a blaze.

Jackson is a powerful actor, and his performance is what makes Lakeview Terrace riveting to watch. As scary as he is, there are elements of his personality and moral code that are commendable on some level. And Jackson’s voice and delivery are easy to listen to – you want him to be on camera, even if he is doing mean things. Here, he is given an interesting script with plenty of gray areas – this is not a simple crazy neighbor film. Of course, as the movie goes on, it gets a little uglier, and that may not suit more sensitive types.

Director Neil LaBute, who is kind of an expert in making movies about bastards (see the excellent In the Company of Men) does a nice slow reveal of how mean and troubled Turner really is. One criticism: the music is pleasant, but doesn’t seem to have any relation to the mood of the film. Rating: 3 of 4

Other reviewers said:
"Having an angry Samuel L Jackson as your nasty neighbor would be anybody's idea of bad news. Tense and terrifying, this is a smart thriller."
- Mark Adams (Daily Mirror [UK])

"As a thriller it’s solid three-star tension. As a Samuel L. Jackson showcase it proves a man can only coast through so many motherfuckin’ or milquetoastin’ turns before having to display his full and overpowering talent."
- Kim Newman (Empire Magazine)

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