Are we really supposed to stomach a thriller in which the root of all evil is intelligent black men in power who can’t stomach, to the point of going full-on psychotic, the sight of a white man married to a black woman? Apparently so, as Neil Labute’s familiar penchant for provocation takes a sharp turn into insane self-parody with this hysterical hybrid of Unlawful Entry and Training Day in which LAPD officer Abel Turner (Samuel L. Jackson) responds to the arrival in his cul-de-sac of mixed-race couple Chris (Patrick Wilson) and Lisa (Kerry Washington) by losing his freaking mind. Abel, a widower with a teen daughter and younger son, is introduced as a stern family man who folds his kids’ laundry and likes to lay down the law (he orders his son to like Shaq rather than Kobe). These token gestures toward establishing Abel’s relatable humanity, though, are quickly subsumed by his lunatic behavior toward Chris and Lisa, whose sole crime in Abel’s mind—as well as that of the film’s only other African-American male, Lisa’s wealthy father (Ron Glass)—is that Chris’s skin color is far too fair. Lakeview Terrace eventually proffers a specific, highly personal reason for Abel’s anti-jungle fever (which doesn’t extend to his multicultural squadmates), yet it’s all a sham, since Labute’s sole purpose isn’t to examine intolerance but merely to exploit prejudices (blacks’ toward miscegenation-loving whites, whites’ toward scary black authority figures) via traditional thriller mechanics. Abel is the macho renegade cop monster in the giant black SUV with the law on his side, and Chris is the white liberal pansy in the silver Prius who doesn’t want to have babies with his wife—laughably contrasting visions of masculinity that provide the schematic framework for Labute’s one-trick-pony plotting in which suspense is chiefly derived from Jackson’s menacing glares. Desperate to create a consuming atmosphere of anxiety, the film creates marital strife between Chris and Lisa as well as work problems for Abel. The scariest thing about Lakeview Terrace, however, is that it intends for its stereotype-mining ooga-booga racial tensions to be both incisive and thrilling, when—like the you’ve-got-to-be-kidding encroaching wildfire metaphor that further sinks the proceedings into silliness—it’s just so much knucklehead nonsense.
- Screen Gems
- 106 min
- Neil Labute
- David Loughery, Howard Korder
- Samuel L. Jackson, Patrick Wilson, Kerry Washington, Ron Glass
- Slant is reaching more readers than ever before, but advertising revenue across the Internet is falling fast, hitting independently owned and operated publications like ours the hardest. We’ve watched many of our fellow media sites fall by the way side in recent years, but we’re determined to stick around.
We’ve never asked our readers for financial support before, and we’re committed to keeping our content free and accessible—meaning no paywalls or subscription fees. If you like what we do, however, please consider becoming a Slant patron.
You can also make a one-time donation via PayPal: