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Feature


LAPD officer Abel Turner (Samuel L Jackson) is a lone father, struggling to raise his children in a violent city after the death of his wife. Then a couple he disapproves of moves in next door and their antisocial behaviour threatens his fragile family life. He has no choice but to take action to ensure his children aren’t corrupted. That’s one way of looking at it. The other way of looking at it is that a liberal mixed-race couple move in next door to a racist black man who terrorises them to the point when it turns violent. Depends on your point of view I suppose…

 Lakeview Terrace
It’s important to note that Lakeview Terrace opens with Samuel L Jackson dealing with his children. Even though he’s essentially the bad guy—a cop who terrorises his neighbours—I’m convinced that with some judicial editing, this movie could easily have turned the tables on the protagonist and antagonist. The point is that both central male characters are flawed and some of their actions are petty, so I was left questioning the motives of both of them throughout the movie.

Where Lakeview Terrace succeeds is in the early scenes and the more subtle moments. The atmosphere is suitably awkward between Abel and Chris (Patrick Wilson) in the first half hour or so and the tension builds nicely until the writers decide to give us a reason for Abel’s dislike of white men with black women. Another good touch is the fire sweeping across California that slowly makes its way towards Lakeview Terrace as the movie progresses. It might be a little heavy-handed, but it’s a nice metaphor for the growing anger between the two neighbours.

 Lakeview Terrace
The screenplay veers from decent touches like that into some moments that are so jarring that they feel like they’ve either been added in at the last minute or put there on purpose because the writers felt like making some kind of point. There are a number of lines that give the whole movie strong racial overtones and in an effort to make the ‘good guys’ as liberal and sympathetic as possible, the line-up of people at their house party is such a mix of ethnicities that it looks like they’re hanging out in a Benetton ad. There are also some devices that make no sense at all. For example, if Chris wants to hide his secret smoking habit from his wife, why does he smoke in the car? Surely a non-smoker would smell it the second she got into the car?

I’d also question the central couple’s actions towards each other. His reaction to her big news about half way through left me scratching my head, as did the fact that the escalating troubles seem to push them apart when any normal couple would probably be drawn together in solidarity. All of that aside, the performances from everyone involved are pretty good. Samuel L Jackson was undoubtedly drawn to the movie because Abel is a complex character and he gets plenty of good lines. And let’s not forget—from his perspective he’s the hero of the movie.

 Lakeview Terrace

Video


Lakeview Terrace is presented in 1080p and I’m happy to report that the movie looks very good on Blu-ray. As with most recent movies with a decent budget, there are no problems with the source that has been used for the transfer. Colours are very strong and there are no obvious issues with edge enhancement. During later scenes when the fire is closing in, there is a lot of smoke in the picture and I thought this may be the time when grain or compression artefacts may start to appear, however there weren’t any visible problems.

 Lakeview Terrace

Audio


In a movie with a lot of talking and shouting, I didn’t think my sound system would be given much work to do, so I was pleasantly surprised by the little details that can be found through the surround channels. Even though Lakeview Terrace looks like a nice neighbourhood, we’re always reminded of the danger that is close at hand by police sirens and helicopter noise in the background. Other effects like buzzing lights are also used to good effect to increase the tension during key scenes. There are no problems with audio quality—dialogue and music are all at the right level—so while this might not be a disc that will leave your ears ringing, the presentation is very impressive for a movie of this type.

 Lakeview Terrace

Extras


The highlight of the package is the commentary track with Neil LaBute and Kerry Washington. There’s a good mix of technical insight into the making of the movie and anecdotes. For example, there’s plenty of talk about lighting and the work of the director of photography but Washington balances it out with her story about how a flat tyre nearly stopped her getting the role. There are three behind the scenes featurettes that can be watched in one nineteen-minute long session. They contain the typical cast and crew interviews where they discuss their characters and the story, peppered with clips from the movie.

There are eight deleted scenes that come with optional commentary from Neil LaBute. They’re worth watching because they contain some interesting moments that were left out—like Aaron Eckhart’s cameo appearance—and the director’s commentary tells us exactly why these moments didn’t fit the characters. Finally we get trailers for Quarantine, Resident Evil: Degeneration, Terminator Salvation and a promo for Blu-ray.

 Lakeview Terrace

Overall


Lakeview Terrace is definitely worth a watch. There is a lot to like about the movie, especially during the first half, but I thought some key scenes were jarring and overstepped the ‘awkward’ mark to take me out of the movie and question why the events I was watching were happening. The answer is that the story is purely a construct and even though it looks like a slice of American life to a casual observer, I’d be very surprised if this combination of events would ever happen in real life. The movie looks and sounds great in high definition and while the set of extras does the job in complementing the viewing experience, there’s nothing particularly impressive to be found in the special features menu.

* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page.


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