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Lakeview Terrace (2008)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 1/27/2009

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/29/2009

Over time, many directors create a recognizable look to their films. When you see something by Tim Burton, Steven Spielberg, or John Carpenter, you immediately know from the lighting or design who the director is. Others gain recognition for their subject matter. Spike Lee likes societal issues, Kevin Smith favors scatological humor, and Michael Mann does crime thrillers. But, how many directors are known for the tone of their films? Neil LaBute is a filmmaker who has a reputation for creating movies which make the audience uncomfortable. He attempts to build upon that body of work with the racially charged Lakeview Terrace.

As Lakeview Terrace opens, Chris and Lisa Mattson (Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington) move into a very nice house on a cul-de-sac somewhere in the Los Angeles area. They look like your typical young and happy couple, except he is white and she is African-American. Their next-door neighbor is Abel Turner (Samuel L. Jackson), an LAPD officer who clearly doesn't approve of the inter-racial couple. At first, Abel seems friendly enough, but he also shows a very tough and stern side to Chris, and he gets very angry when his children approach the Mattson's. Chris and Lisa attempt to go on about their daily business, but they also find Abel doing something to ruin their day. Soon, what began as an uncomfortable relationship turns into an all-out war as Chris becomes convinced that Abel is our to ruin their lives and force them to move.

When a director shows a particular skill, I often wonder what it would be like if they applied it to another genre. A good example of this would be Quentin Tarantino's ability to create suspense in his movies. I would love to see him tackle a supernatural horror film. With his first two films, In the Company of Men and Your Friends & Neighbors, Neil LaBute proved to be a master at showing humans in their basest forms, doing despicable things, all the while maintaining a manner of social grace. These films created quite a stir, especially In the Company of Men, and were known for making the viewer very uncomfortable. This made me wonder what it would be like if LaBute could channel that energy into a thriller.

Weíve now learned that no good can come of that notion. In 2006, LaBute brought us an uninspired and murky remake of The Wicker Man. His latest effort, Lakeview Terrace, falls into the genre of paranoid suspense thriller. To be fair, the movie has a great idea at its core. The movie is about racism, but this time, itís reverse racism. Due to personal issues, which are revealed in the film, Abel hates interracial couples and heís not afraid to let that idea be known. Abel is a successful, well-respected member of the community who has a very nice home, but when his new neighbors move in, he simply loses it. The movie also plays on the idea that Chris and Lisa will be helpless against a police officer.

But, beyond that interesting main idea, the movie becomes so absurd and inscrutable that itís impossible to get into. First of all, Abelís motivations and intentions are never truly spelled out in the film. Yes, we learn why he disapproves of inter-racial couples, but his behavior is incredibly incongruous throughout the movie. Sometimes heís nice to the Mattson and sometimes heís aggressive. He attempts to frame them and then he attempts to save them. Is this dichotomous behavior supposed to make Abel more disturbing? It certainly makes him come across as crazy, but not in a way which effects the audience. We simply see a movie which canít seem to make up its mind. Abelís behavior escalates to a point in the third act that reaches sheer lunacy. His antics in the first half were supposed to be chilling, and it almost worked because they were semi-believable. However, he loses it towards the end, and we are left to wonder what in the world was this guy thinking?

Actually, what were these actors thinking? I can see how Jackson would be attracted to the reverse racism angle, but Abel becomes a psycho and this seems as if would be beneath Mr. Jackson. A movie which opens with a promising premise soon devolves into a rip-off of Fatal Attraction or Single White Female. Adding race as the ingredient for obsession doesnít guarantee a movie which feels fresh. Of all of the culprits here, LaBute deserves the most blame. You would think that a movie concerning suburban racism and police brutality would come front-loaded with tension, but the movie never causes any disease in the audience, and the only thing that is uncomfortable is your butt as you sit through this numbing mess.

Lakeview Terrace keeps peering out the window on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no distracting grain and no defects from the source material. Much of the film takes place in the bright, California sunshine (to juxtapose the dark material) and these scenes are crystal clear. The image has a nice crispness which helps to define the depth and impressive level of detail. The colors look very good, and the image is never overly bright. The Disc carries a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 1.6 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is a quality track, as it delivers good stereo effects which demonstrate a good level of stereo separation. These effects are nicely detailed as well. Surround sound effects are nicely used, especially with helicopters flying through the area. A party scene provides music which gives us wall-shaking bass.

The Lakeview Terrace Blu-ray Disc contains a few extras. We start with an AUDIO COMMENTARY with Director Neil LaBute and actress Kerry Washington. The Disc contains eight DELETED SCENES which run about 13 minutes and can be viewed with optional commentary by LaBute. Most of these are merely filler, as they show more of Chris and Lisa moving in, Chris at work, and Chris buying curtains. There is an odd moment between Lisa and Abel which seems very out of place. "An Open House" (6 minutes) contains comments from LaBute and the cast as they discuss the story and the characters. "Meet Your Neighbors" (7 minutes) examines the main characters and actors, as LaBute and the cast comment on one another. "Home Sweet Home" (7 minutes) profiles LaBute, and also contains a look at stunt work and the look of the film.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long