‘Lakeview Terrace’

Four little words can say so much.

The young, idealistic protagonists in “Lakeview Terrace,” for example, might ask themselves, “Why did we move here?” Especially when their new next-door neighbor reacts to their presence with an inexplicably hostile “Not in my neighborhood.”

And crabby movie critics will sigh and ponder the four saddest words of tongue or pen: it might have been. (Just ask poet John Greenleaf Whittier.)

Or, more to the point, just watch “Lakeview Terrace.”

A topical thriller with a provocative edge — and a chance to catch Samuel L. Jackson in prime button-pushing mode — “Lakeview Terrace” is one of those movies that keeps you on the edge of your seat.

Not because it’s so grippingly suspenseful, but because you’re hoping against hope that it’ll be different, that it’ll live up to its potential, that it won’t bumble and stumble inevitably downhill before plunging off the cliff of in-your-face obviousness.

No such luck.

More’s the pity, because there are times when “Lakeview Terrace” burrows into your brain — and under your skin — to explore unsettling questions of race and identity, power and authority.

Initially, “Lakeview Terrace” emerges as a variation on all those wacko-from-hell thrillers that dominated multiplexes in the ’80s and ’90s, including “Fatal Attraction” (jilted lover from hell) and “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle” (nanny from hell).

There was even a cop from hell making life miserable for his unsuspecting neighbors in “Unlawful Entry.”

The same premise applies here, as Los Angeles police officer Abel Turner (Jackson) provides a less than enthusiastic welcome to his new neighbors, Chris and Lisa Mattson.

Maybe he resents the fact that Chris (“Little Children’s” Patrick Wilson) and Lisa (“The Last King of Scotland’s” Kerry Washington) are young, blissfully happy and just beginning their life together in a new home.

Especially because he’s widowed, with two fractious kids (Regine Nehy, Jaishon Fisher) to discipline — and a peaceful suburban neighborhood to patrol. That is, when he’s not busting dopers, dealers and gangbangers as a Los Angeles cop.

Or maybe Abel resents Chris and Lisa because he’s white and she’s black — a fact that bothers them not at all. Abel’s attitude, however, is considerably less tolerant.

One of “Lakeview Terrace’s” initial strengths is its reluctance to spell everything out for us — and its willingness to let us observe and draw our own conclusions.

Director Neil LaBute, working from a screenplay by David Loughery (“Money Train”) and Howard Korder (“The Passion of Ayn Rand”) knows this territory well.

After all, his 1997 big-screen debut, “In the Company of Men,” transformed the controversial playwright into an indie darling with its tale of two nasty salesmen pretending to romance a deaf colleague just to humiliate her.

Some of those squirmingly provocative, twist-the-knife moments also find their way into “Lakeview Terrace.” Abel can’t help but grin — sometimes inwardly, sometimes not — at the ways in which his manipulative intimidation games affect his new neighbors’ increasingly tense marriage.

And, of course, it enables Abel to revel in the role of the big man with the badge, despite the fact that his aggressive policing has triggered trouble with the LAPD powers-that-be.

Too bad “Lakeview Terrace’s” powers-that-be couldn’t leave well enough alone.

Instead of trusting their characters and script — and trusting that the audience would pick up on the emotional undercurrents — “Lakeview Terrace’s” makers opt for the sledgehammer approach.

Just when the movie has you convinced it’s not going to succumb to its basest instincts, it succumbs.

The increasingly ludicrous script contrasts the macho, self-righteous Abel with the wimpy liberal (or should that be liberal wimp?) Chris, defining masculinity through caricature, not character.

As if we couldn’t figure out what’s bothering Abel, the script gives him an explain-it-all monologue that’s so incredibly on the nose it’s like one of those “Wheel of Fortune” puzzles where all the letters have been filled in — only the poor contestant still can’t figure it out.

And an out-of-control wildfire burning ever closer to “Lakeview Terrace’s” title neighborhood provides a visual metaphor worthy of a collective “Well, duuh …”

But it meshes with the movie’s heat-not-light philosophy, as it degenerates from a potentially thoughtful exploration of hot-button issues to just another over-the-top thriller.

Contact movie critic Carol Cling at ccling@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272.

Artists from Cirque du Soleil contribute art to Las Vegas art exhibit
Artists from Cirque du Soleil contribute art to Las Vegas gallery exhibit
Red Plate on the Las Vegas Strip serves a cocktail made with blooming jasmine tea
Red Plate on the Las Vegas Strip serves a cocktail made with jasmine tea
Benny the Ice Skating Dog
Benny is a Las Vegas Labrador who was rescued by former pro skater Cheryl Del Sanyo, and trained to ice skate. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Nevada State Museum
The Nevada State Museum of Las Vegas, located at the Springs Preserve, covers all eras of the state, from prehistoric to today.
Throw a better dinner party
Cash appears at Baseball Winter Meetings
Lights FC mascot Cash plays the electronic drums at the EZ Inflatables’ booth on Tuesday at the Baseball Winter Meetings trade show at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.
5 albums to soundtrack your holiday gatherings in style
1. Various Artists, “Holidays Rule," with Rufus Wainwright, The Shins, Calexico and more. 2. Various Artists, “We Wish You a Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year," with Lemmy Kilmister, Alice Cooper, Chuck Billy and others. 3. Various Artists, “Christmas on Death Row," featuring Snoop Dogg and Nate Dogg to name but a few. 4. Bright Eyes, “A Christmas Album.” 5. Various Artists, "The Motown Christmas Album." (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Inside the kitchen at Springs Preserve
The staff of Divine Events do party preparation in the kitchen at Divine Cafe at Springs Preserve. With nine parties the following day, this is a particularly busy time for the crew. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
WinterFest in Henderson.
Miss Rodeo America Fashion Show
The 28 women contestants of Miss Rodeo America compete in a fashion show at the Tropicana on Dec. 7, 2018.
Tournament Of Kings Holiday Show
Wizards and warriors are ready for the holidays at Excalibur's Tournament of Kings Holiday Dinner Show.
Take a dive with the Silverton mermaids
A visit to the Silverton Casino Hotel is not complete without taking in the popular, and very unique, mermaid show.
Cowboys and western aficionados can buy virtually anything at Cowboy Christmas
Vegas Golden Knights Christmas Display
In the Las Vegas Valley, the chances of getting a white Christmas are slim. But this year, you can have a “Knight” Christmas. A Henderson resident has a Christmas lights display that is synchronized to the entrance music for the Golden Knights. GG Misa’s Knights light show is played every 30 minutes from 5 to 10 nightly. His light show consists of two songs: Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” and the entrance music, “Le Castle Vania,” from the movie “John Wick.” The display is located at 730 Bollons Island St. (Richard Brian/Las Vegas Reivew-Journal)
Holiday Hooch At El Cortez is Just in Time For Repeal Day And Christmas
Holiday Hooch At El Cortez Is Just In Time For Repeal Day And Christmas. Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal
TV's LGBT superheroes
Green Valley Ranch's Winter's Village
The Mob Museum
Best Friend Menu Reveal Wednesday
Chef Roy Choi tells us what to expect from Wednesday’s Facebook Live Menu Reveal for his new Park MGM restaurant Best Friend. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Quick Chat With Criss Angel
James D. Gish and Susan Anton rehearse
Susan Anton will be special guest at James D. Gish’s holiday concerts Dec. 7 at Summerlin Library and Dec. 9 at Clark County Library. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bellagio Winter Wonderland
"Majestic Holiday Magic" at the Bellagio Conservatory.
Underwater Santa At The Silverton
Santa takes a dive Sunday, December 2, at the Silverton Casino Hotel. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Cowabunga Bay Christmas Town
Las Vegas Natural History Museum
Las Vegas Natural History Museum, which opened in 1991, has exhibits of mechanical dinosaurs and taxidermied animals, along with live snakes, fish and sharks. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Magical Forest Lights
Cirque Du Soleil Performers Team Up For New Show "Kinekt"
Through dance, acrobatics and aerial arts, “Kinekt” tells a story all too familiar to modern families: how to maintain a human connection in the digital age. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ethel M Holiday Cactus Garden
The Pinball Hall of Fame in Las Vegas
The Pinball Hall of Fame was created by Tim Arnold and opened in 2006. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jump! The Ultimate Dog Show at Springs Preserve in Las Vegas
Trainer Lou “Mack” McCammon guides several rescue dogs through a series of tricks and jumps two shows a day weekends through December at the Springs Preserve in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like