'Lakeview Terrace' is a worthwhile but flawed thriller about racial politics played out in an idyllic multi-cultural LA bedroom community. It's like a chamber version of Paul Haggis' Crash, with a more focused, smaller scale story. I rented it due to my admiration for director Neil LaBute's dark writing skills both on stage and screen. Though he did not write this one, it did reflect his questioning and often perverse take on human relationships.
Interracial couple Kerry Washington and Patrick Wilson move into to a mixed and apparently tension free subdivision, their nearest neighbor is a widowed LA patrol cop and his two teens. That cop, Abel Turner (Samuel L. Jackson), anchors the film in a typically galvanic and menacing performance. He does not approve of the races mixing (for hidden reasons of his own, I won't go to spoiler alert) and surreptitiously does everything he can to terrorize them and undermine their relationship. Jackson will literally do anything, regardless of morality to mess up the lives of this couple.
Wilson and Washington play more complex and less 'goody two shoes' characters than you would expect in more cliched film. Their marriage is presented as having cracks before they arrived in the neighborhood, caused by a combination of character differences and the corrosive effects of society's lack of acceptance of their marriage. Neither actor plays sweet ingenue roles, which is to the film's credit.
Yet, because of the above point, I didn't care whether this couple stayed together or broke up and that is an almost fatal flaw. Hence, we have much less to root for in the course of the film and as a result, the first hour of set up is much more interesting than the last hour of denouement, where the film breaks down in gratuitous action and mayhem scenes, particularly in the gun blazing climax.
Jackson's a mesmerizing presence and plays a very dark and unusual character. Still, I was never convinced or understood his reverse racism, even though it's explained with a lame plot detail at the end concerning his late wife. Look for a nice turn by Regina Nehy as Jackson's intelligent and questioning teen daughter, she does very lovely work here.
In some ways LT works better than its sister movie 'Crash' since it has less ambition and more narrowly focused. However, after hour one it bogs down in unconvincing plot points and gratuitous complications involving crazy and unbelievable scheming on the part of Abel. The film is workmanlike in its technical aspects and is very well paced. It's worth a rental on a rainy or snowy night.