Neil LaBute's latest effort to sabotage his career was screened after
WW press deadlines. Just as well:
The most disheartening thing about Lakeview Terrace
is not that director Neil LaBute has hired himself out to a limp, ludicrous exploitation picture, but that he has prostituted his sensibilities as well. On screen and (mostly) stage, LaBute has delved into the hostilities most artists avoid—men who emotionally torment women, women who use men, and the guilty contempt beautiful people feel toward the fat and homely. In Lakeview Terrace
, he trades on this notoriety to make us think he's confronting us with uncomfortable truths, but he instead delivers familiar and corrosive lies.
He also offers the sight of Samuel L. Jackson glowering, which for a while nearly serves as compensation. Jackson plays a widowed cop who patrols his neighborhood with special attention, watchful for outrages like a mixed-race couple moving in. “You and your little chocolate drop picked the wrong place to move, and the wrong time,” he informs Jason Patrick, whose marriage to Kerry Washington offends the officer even more than Patrick's weakness for hip-hop. The duration of Lakeview Terrace
consists of Jackson growing increasingly unhinged, as his black traditionalism turns him into latter-day Bill Cosby with a gun. He expresses this ire by shouting (of course), slashing tires and, eventually, hiring a goon to trash his neighbors' bedroom. But mostly he glowers. LaBute stops the movie in its tracks at least a dozen times for a shot of Jackson staring menacingly, and it never fails to draw a good laugh. Lakeview Terrace never reaches the camp heights of LaBute's Wicker Man
remake (nothing can match Nicolas Cage slugging women while dressed as a bear), but those shots of Jackson scowling make up for a lot.
But Lakeview Terrace
tests the limits of unintentional comedy: It's deadly boring for long stretches, and it stresses the seriousness of its racial provocations to the point where they stop being funny and become despicable instead. Patrick's character, who I believe is named Whitey McWhiterson, spends his time looking stressed and Caucasian; screenwriters David Loughery and Howard Korder are attempting to convey the unease of an arugula-chewing, Berkley-educated cracker navigating what he can and can't say to a bigoted African-American. Which is almost intriguing, so far as it goes, except that Lakeview Terrace also wants to turn Jackson into the kind of raging black Other who can only be stopped by force. Apparently the stereotype of a black man who wants to sleep with “our” women is outdated; now audiences are supposed to be scared of a black man who doesn't want us to sleep with his women. Whether LaBute buys any of this patent horseshit doesn't really matter. He sells it like he expects people to call it transgressive, when in fact anybody with half a brain can see it for what it is: race-baiting. PG-13.
Lakeview Terrace opened today at Century 16 Cedar Hills Crossing, Century Eastport 16, Cinema 99 Stadium 11, Cinemas Bridgeport Village Stadium 18 & IMAX, City Center Stadium 12, Division Street Stadium 13, Evergreen Parkway Stadium 13, Hilltop 9 Cinema, Lloyd Center Stadium 10 Cinema, Movies On TV Stadium 16, Pioneer Place Stadium 6, Sherwood Stadium 10, Tigard 11 Cinemas.