Lakeview Terrace

By Clint Morris

Samuel L. Jackson again steps out of view from the Oscars voting committee with his umpteenth popcorn flick of late, “Lakeview Terrace”.

He might be too good for films like this, but the Oscar Nominee (for “Pulp Fiction” – long time between overpriced Kodak theatre drinks hey, Sam?) definitely brings something to them. And he makes it look as easy as it probably is.

Jackson really only has to portray the same character over-and-over in these pricey studio fluffies. That usually requires sprouting a couple of his trademark curse words accompanied by some of his customary unnerving yelling (eyeballs popping at the same time, of course), not to mention having him participate in a good little shoot-out.
Films like “Snakes on a Plane”, “1408”, “Jumper” and now, “Lakeview Terrace” really do benefit from having Sam-the-Man on board. In fact, he’s so fun to watch in them that you forget you’re watching a turd. Nearly.

“Lakeview Terrace” is a fun, typically ridiculous thriller that brings back the old ‘nutty neighbour’ storyline that was used so often in the early 90s – with films like “Pacific Heights” and “Unlawful Entry” (Alas, most of the target audience are too young to remember those flicks so they’ll be saved from the case of Déjà vu those over the age of 25 may experience). Difference this time is that, er, the bad guy is black and, um, the California bush fires are closing in on both good and bad…. so if they don’t kill each other, the raging fires might do.

Jackson is Abel, a testy cop living in a comfy cul-de-sac who begins to terrorize his next-door neighbours (Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington) after learning that they are an interacially married couple.

A stern, widowed-single father of two, Abel is the self-appointed is watchdog of the neighborhood. His nightly foot patrols and overly watchful eyes bring comfort to some, but he becomes increasingly harassing to the newlyweds. The persistent intrusions into the lives of the duo ultimately take a turn for the worse when the couple decides to fight back.

It goes without saying that this is laughable stuff – the script’s a mess, the characters lack real motivation (though is apparently the way he is because of his late wife, who was revealed to be a cheater before her death) and storyline as a whole is just stupid. Bloody stupid. At the same time, I challenge anyone not to have a good time with it.

Jackson is a blast as the unstoppable screw-loose copper who’ll do anything to rid of the “Jungle Fever” fans next door, and his scenes with good-guy Wilson (“Little Children”) are a blast. Most of all though, it’s placing this tired story into a fresh backdrop – in this case, he houses surrounding the recent bushfires in Los Angeles – that gives it that something extra.

Yes, the film is too good for Samuel L. Jackson – he seems to be the type of actor that’s not so much interested in grabbing awards and acclaim as he is entertaining the biggest cinema segment out there, the teenagers – and it’s way too good for director Neil LaBute (“In the Company of Men”), who assumingly just needed the money, but not all films have to shock, astonish and stay with you forever… some exist simply to entertain. This be one of those.