Once upon a time in a magical land, four officers beat the hell out of a motorist named Rodney King. That magical land was called Lakeview Terrace. Thank goodness officers are good and kind now...Well, most of them.
Samuel L. Jackson is Officer Abel Turner, the widowed father of two kids (Regine Nehy, Jaishon Fisher). Abel keeps the kids on such a short leash, it's no wonder they don't use it to strangle him. He's mildly interested when moving fans pull up next door, but mildly enraged when he sees the new neighbors are interracial couple Chris (Patrick Wilson) and Lisa (Kerry Washington). Seeing them together makes him angry. And you wouldn't like him when he's angry.
As if his innate bigotry isn't enough, he uses the fact that he caught his kids watching them make out in the pool as justification to make their lives hell. He begins by shining searchlights in their home bright enough to signal Batman to trying to break up their marriage by sending Lisa video of Chris with a stripper. When that doesn't work, he goes from bad cop to very bad cop.
Director Neil LaBute known for such low-budget art house fare as "In the Company of Men" and the hideous, but well-acclaimed "The Shape of Things" takes on a script that's been made more to stoke the fires of box office coin than water cooler dialogue incited by racially charged films such as "Crash." While the story has enough irony and uncomfortable moments to carry parts of the film such as Chris and Lisa's housewarming party, complete with Abel emasculating all in earshot, it never quite finds it's way.
Samuel L. Jackson's performance proves you can make lemons out of lemonade. He allows Abel to show his range as a person whether it's the tough as nails cop that even his peers fear or breaking the rules to encouraging someone to be a better father...albeit involving a shotgun. Wilson and Washington, while nice to look at, are given roles where you actually root for them to break up...or get shot. When the couple's tires are slashed and Washington cries out "Is it the Prius," you want to give Abel more bullets. LaBute tries to cover all bases by giving us over-the-top elements such as a literal and metaphorical wildfire threatening the cul-de-sac as well as revealing the source of Abel's rage, but you wish more time had been given to making Wilson and Washington more than just 90's yuppie stereotypes.
Based on a true story, "Lakeview Terrace" was actually filmed in the city of Walnut. I wonder why that was. Maybe the real LVT was busy that day or maybe it knew it would be embarrassed about this movie.
Billy Tatum gives "Lakeview Terrace" 2 (out of 5) Scoops.
"Lakeview Terrace." MPAA rating: PG-13 for intense thematic material, violence, sexuality, language and some drug references. Running time: 1 hour, 46 minutes. In general release.