One major theme of this election season may be racial reconciliation in America with the nomination of Barack Obama for President, but at least two movies in current release – Tyler Perry’s The Family That Preys and Neil LaBute’s Lakeview Terrace – would have you believe otherwise. Specifically, interracial mating as the cinematic incendiary device of choice, and it’s not white racists that are made to seethe about cross-racial romance, but oddly enough, black folks. Reality check, please.
In Lakeview Terrace, Samuel L. Jackson is Turner, a segregationist minded, super-spiteful angry black man, and then some. He’s also a brazen veteran LAPD cop who seems to specialize in highly illegal, out of control brutal enforcement methods, which tends to put anyone who riles him up for whatever reason on or off the job, in potential harm’s way. A widower, Turner lives with his rebellious teen daughter in a suburban home that appears a little on the lavish side for a cop, and he’s one of those 24/7 kinda control freak officers and compulsive Peeping Sams who enjoys butting into neighbors’ lives, under the pretext of community safety.
And when a couple purchases the house next door, Turner is fine with it because the wife and her husband, who looks old enough to be her father, are both black. But when Turner figures out that the man hanging around with Lisa (Kerry Washington) really is her father, and that it’s the meek white guy (Patrick Wilson) he thought was the moving man who’s her spouse, he goes into quiet ballistic mode. And from then on, it’s Turner’s intent to make the couple’s lives as miserable as possible, leading to tragic consequences all around.
Samuel L. Jackson is as impressively scary as can be in the role of the unneighborly sadist, and this breathlessly paced psychological thriller sustains its nervous wreck momentum throughout. Not to mention that Jackson’s honed terror tactics here can make his intended target for abuse shrivel with the slightest disapproving snarl, or whip you senseless with a conversation that sounds an awful lot like a hot seat interrogation. And though Chris has some unresolved racial bias issues of his own, they barely register on the villain meter next to his surprise guy next door monster adversary.
But what the point of such a cynical and hateful view of mankind exactly is, along with an apparent relish for worst case scenario moviemaking by Neil LaBute (The Wicker Man, In The Company Of Men), eludes any persuasive rationale. Other than what can only be termed inflammatory cinema.