Move away from "Lakeview Terrace"

Sept. 22, 2008, midnight | By Katie Sint | 13 years, 7 months ago

Great acting cannot save a movie built on cheap thrills

If there is one message to be taken from "Lakeview Terrace," it is to never move in next to Samuel L. Jackson.

"Lakeview Terrace" is, in its purest form, an overblown neighborhood war. Centering on the elevated conflicts between a racist policeman and an interracial couple that has just moved into the neighborhood, the movie provides nearly two hours of tension and intensity, but almost no substance. "Lakeview Terrace" can boast about its talented cast, which includes Jackson and Kerry Washington. However, the great acting talent of the cast is still unable to rescue the film's shallow plot.

When Chris (Patrick Wilson) and Lisa Mattson (Kerry Washington) move in next door to Abel Turner (Jackson), tensions escalate. Turner's deep-seeded prejudice against interracial couples is clear every time he speaks to Chris, which sparks major confrontations. An exchange of edgy quips and hostile remarks elevates quickly into slashed tires, break-ins and confrontations involving chainsaws.

A violent confrontation between the two neighbors becomes the catalyst for a series of events that drastically alters the lives of those involved. The movie intensifies quickly over the span of a few weeks; so quickly that it's amazing that not one character stopped and made the realization that things were elevating at a ridiculous pace.

The series of bizarre fights and outlandish interactions that occur over the span of the movie become distracting and make the movie seem unrealistic. The conflicts and fights between these neighbors beg the question: rather than risk your life, your family's lives and everything you cherish and own, wouldn't it be a lot easier to just move?

Surprisingly, the talent of the cast shines through even the dimmest dialogue in "Lakeview Terrace." Jackson steps into his role perfectly, pushing the character's self-righteousness and pride to the brink of insanity. One look into his crazy rabid eyes when he delivers the line, "I am the police; you have to do what I say" is enough redemption for Jackson's box-office bomb "Snakes on a Plane."

Washington provides a great contrast to Jackson, as the calm wife of Chris who has enough sensibility to suggest moving out of the neighborhood. Washington, who played the girlfriend of Ben Grimm, the orange boulder-like hero, in "The Fantastic Four," displays her wide range of acting ability in "Lakeview Terrace." Unlike in "The Fantastic Four," Washington has a larger role and is able to act through a wide range of emotion.

Regine Nehy and Jaison Fisher, who play Turner's kids, Celia and Marcus, are fairly fresh faces whose talent, although underutilized in "Lakeview Terrace," is obvious. Nehy and Fisher step up to the challenge of matching Jackson's intensity and are strong presences on the screen.

Unfortunately, cheesy dialogue and awkward phrasing cast a dark shadow on the praiseworthy performances of the cast. Lines like, "he's got the color issue on his side, and that color is blue," are so awful that they detract from the content of the actual film.

The issues of racism and violence are present but not capitalized on in the film. They merely serve as a backdrop to the unnecessary conflicts between Turner and the Mattsons, squandering the great chance to send a profound message within a film.

"Lakeview Terrace" provides shallow thrills and provokes little thought, although viewers will become more appreciative that none of their neighbors will come at them with a chainsaw.

"Lakeview Terrace" (110 minutes) is rated PG-13 for intense thematic material, violence, sexuality, language and some drug reference. Now showing at The Majestic, AMC Loews White Flint 5, UA Bethesda 10, Royale 14.

Katie Sint. Katie Sint is 5 foot 2 and her last name rhymes with "squint" which has lead to the creation of many Asian jokes. Katie likes Sour Patch kids, Iron chef, laughing, Bubble Shooter, The Office and naps. She plays volleyball and is a CAP junior. More »

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