Life in ‘Lakeview Terrace’ Thrills With Real Fears

Fabiola Prieto

Named for the Los Angeles suburb that was pushed into the limelight in 1991 by the Rodney King police beating incident that spawned citywide rioting, “Lakeview Terrace” explores the psyche of intolerance and hate, reminding us of the deepest fears that we’ve all had: parental control, abuse of power and manipulation.

“Lakeview Terrace,” directed by LaBute (“The Wicker Man,” 2006), and written by David Loughery (“Money Train,” 2005) and Howard Korder (“Stealing Sinatra,” 2003), thrills the audiences as we’re reminded of our human frailties.

Chris Mattson (Patrick Wilson) and his wife, Lisa Mattson (Kerry Washington) are adapting to their new lives in Los Angeles.
In the middle of the wildfires that Angelinos experience every year, their new home, marriage, and lives are threatened by a man who’s supposed to represent safety. “What can be safer than living next to a cop?”

The Mattsons have just moved into their first home. Their neighbor, Abel Turner (Samuel L. Jackson), a cop, who is also recent widower and father of two kids, finds the couple’s interracial marriage unacceptable and wants them out of the neighborhood. Turner goes out of his way to make sure the Mattson’s know where they’re not wanted.

Performances by all three leads show the attentiveness of the casting director. Who else can play Turner, but the man who’s made profanity his signature? Wilson’s character maintains the essence of Jeff Kohlver, the character he played in “Hard Candy” (2005), who gets beat down by a 14-year-old. (He’s got to be used to the butt-whipping by now.) Mattson displays a sincere sense of fear, but as he sees his life in danger, he becomes intimidating and brave.

Washington’s performance is more subtle yet powerful and her character adds depth to the story. When Lisa gets pregnant without the consent of her husband, she reflects her version of Turner’s “the end justifies the means” attitude. This is another reason to praise the thought put into a film that is sure to be controversial.

Some may argue that you cannot defend violence-let alone murder-from racial intolerance. Still, this is a reality. Can you defend a woman’s decision to begin a family against her husband’s will when trust and communication are supposed to keep a family together? The message of this story is that, to various degrees, we make selfish decisions to get the things we really want. Ultimately, this is a story about power and frailty.

LaBute, who is known for taking on projects that are crude and controversial, can consider this a success in his directing career. The cinematography in this film, especially in scenes with CGI smoke effects, may throw some people off a little, but overall it is a great film with a riveting story.

Rated PG-13 for intense thematic material, violence, sexuality, language and some drug references. Runtime is 110 minutes.
Produced by Overbrook Entertainment; distributed by Sony Pictures.

My rating: Four stars out of five.