If you are just moving, and an angry Samuel L. Jackson ends up being your next door neighbor, the smart thing to do would be to re-pack your belongings and find somewhere else to live. This isn’t what Chris and Lisa Mattson do, and instead end up being tormented by Jackson’s character for almost an entire film. Jackson plays Abel Turner, a police veteran. He doesn’t seem to like the interracial couple all that much, and decides that it would be a good idea to drive them away from his neighborhood. Given the fact that he’s a police officer, there doesn’t seem to be much to fear on his end. On the couple’s end, however, there is a lot to be afraid of and annoyed at.
For example, Turner has lights all around his house, one of which shines directly into the couple’s bedroom window. The couple, instead of buying blinds to fix this problem, confronts Turner about this. He doesn’t like that, and instead continues to annoy the couple. This escalates throughout the course of the film, all while a fire is slowly coming closer to the neighborhood that these characters live in. This fire is seemingly representative of the feud between the families.
After an ending that feels quite abrupt, we never get to find out whether or not the fire devours the homes or not. That is the most disappointing part of Lakeview Terrace. I wanted to find out if there is going to be further moving of homes at the end, or if the fire actually was symbolic of the ongoing feud between them. We don’t get to find out, and this saddens me. Add in a couple of minutes, possibly taking place a few months later, and you’ve got a great finish to an already pretty solid thriller.
In the end, that’s what we get with Lakeview Terrace. It’s a genuinely thrilling film with a solid cast as well as interesting characters and plot. It also hammers home the issue of racism, which just makes the rest of the film seem all the more pertinent and engaging. It’s not that playing the race card can, by itself, make a film interesting, but add it into the mix that the film already has, and you’re given a very solid film.
For a large portion of the film, you never quite get to know what Abel Turner’s real motivation is. In fact, you could go far enough and say that you don’t get an explanation even by the film’s conclusion. We don’t know if he is truly racist, or if there is something else going on. Maybe he has an undiagnosed mental illness. We don’t know. This makes his character interesting, and one of the more sympathetic villains in recent memory.
Turner is polite, at least, when his children are with him, and while he is a disciplinary father, you can tell that he loves his kids dearly. He doesn’t allow them to get away with anything, but we are given a sense that he does this just because he’s trying too hard to do the job of two people. His wife died years ago, we find out, and he’s holding down the fort on his own. Even when he’s terrorizing the protagonists, Chris and Lisa, we feel a bit of sympathy for his character.
Chris (Patrick Wilson) and Lisa (Kerry Washington), on the other hand, don’t warrant the same type of sympathy. They have their own issues, many of which stem from the fact that they are of different races, but they aren’t anywhere close to likable characters. When things begin to go wrong for them, you almost care more for Turner, just because there is a mystery surrounding him. The Mattson’s, on the other hand, have no degree of subtlety, but they don’t really need it. They just want to live their lives, an excellent goal to be sure, and instead find themselves being tormented by a seemingly untouchable force.
The most surprising part about Lakeview Terrace is the fact that it is thrilling. It lives up to its genre name, and represents it quite well. Abel Turner’s true intentions remain hidden, and the two young lovers are put in situations that manage to keep the film entertaining. It’s hard to talk about the how or why to these situations without ruining the film, so I won’t do that. It’ll be a lot easier for you to just take my advice and go see Lakeview Terrace for yourself.
I liked Lakeview Terrace. For once, the trailer for the film actually made me want to watch it. I wasn’t disappointed with what I saw. Well, okay, the ending left a little to be desired, but when the rest of the product is as strong as it is, that can easily be forgiven. The characters, particularly Samuel L. Jackson’s character Abel Turner, are all interesting, and the story that they are given is well thought out and interesting. Lakeview Terrace is a solid thriller, one that, despite focusing heavily on the issue of racism, doesn’t cross the line when it comes to that topic.