Lakeview Terrace is a dark tale of racial prejudice, as a newly-wed couple move into a seemingly normal, cosmopolitan neighbourhood in Los Angeles only to have their wedded bliss spoiled by a bigoted neighbour who fundamentally disagrees with their interracial relationship. Sounds less than uplifting, does it not? But the most important thing to know pre-viewing is that Samuel L Jacksons in it, which for a worrying amount of people will mean an instant rebuttal of the film regardless of merit. The fact that Neil The Wicker Man LaBute is helming cant have set many pulses racing either. However, even to someone who strongly believes that Samuel L Jacksons acting method lately involves shouting animatedly and heavily over-enunciating syllables (move over Al Pacino), the premise for Neil LaButes Lakeview Terrace appears somewhat of a welcome departure. The claustrophobic, racism-flavoured thriller appeared initially at least to be a far more subtle prospect, mostly devoid of the usual ferocious shouting that pepper Jacksons recent performances. It is a prospect made infinitely more appealing than its initial potential by the casting of Patrick Wilson- especially for those of us whose knowledge of Wilsons career is limited largely to Watchmen and before that his turn as Raoul in ThePhantom of the Opera. I am in the unfortunate minority who have not yet been fortunate enough to see Little Children (despite innumerate recommendations) - please forgive me; it is next on my list of purchases. Wilsons performance as the Nite Owl, Dan Dreiberg was a personal highlight of Watchmen; a remarkable performance that was as close to what I imagined Dreiberg to be like as I read the graphic novel, and thus to see what he did immediately prior to Watchmens release was an irresistible draw. Wilsons performance in Lakeview Terrace is pretty accomplished- his is a character torn between wanting a comfortable life in his new home with his new wife, and a foolhardy commitment to his supposed masculine duty to the ideal of the protective husband, which ultimately leads to the exacerbation of his battle with Jacksons unhinged bigot. So too Kerry Washington is fairly good as his new wife Lisa, but she becomes less of an eloquently expressed character when the film turns into a pitched battle between Chris and Abel: Washingtons Lisa becomes peripheral in the wake of their dick-swinging war. To be perfectly honest, neither Wilsons nor Washingtons performances will ever be deemed that important in the aftermath of this film, simply because of what it represents to one of Hollywoods favourite actors careers. I frequently long for a return to Jacksons heyday, when Quentin Tarantino invited him to don increasingly odd wigs or read bible scripture and crucially before the painfully familiar act lost its appeal. It is with a small leap of pleasure that I can admit that Jackson does well with the material he is given in Lakeview Terrace: he is menacing and creepy without ever crossing over the line into pantomime that he so frequently dances upon. In the best scene of the film, well before the ill-advised rush of adrenaline got the better of director LaBute, Abel poisons the newly wed couples housewarming party, in one of the more memorable and mesmerizingly tense scenes of the genre. Jacksons smiling menace lights up the role, and everything down to his stance suggests a simmering fury that is thankfully more implied in the first three quarters of the film than actually expressed. The decision to reference the site for Rodney Kings notorious beating in the title, as well as having Chris quote his equally infamous Cant we all just get along?! line at one point, hints at a social outrage with the explosive issues of racial tension and inequality in our supposedly egalitarian society. It is a hint that I greedily grabbed hold of, wanting something that reflected the inherent prejudices attached to interracial relationships that wont go away no matter how we sanitise them. And the initial signs were good- from Jacksons first flatly horrifying comment to Chris that no matter how often he listened to rap music, he would still wake up white to Chris difficult relationship with his seemingly similarly prejudiced father-in-law. If only Hollywood would be more brave and give us a film that offers sufficient comment on the theme, rather than bottling it every time: imagine how much more provocative Matt Dillons turn as the racist cop in Crash would have been if not for the sugar-coated united cultures resolution. Unfortunately, the same thing happens with Lakeview Terrace. What appears to be a movie trying to come up with a worthwhile political message comes off as a reasonable thriller whose political message is somewhat diluted by the revelation that Jacksons racism is entirely a symptom of his dead wifes adultery with her white boss. Now, if LaBute had been slightly braver, making Jacksons character as irredeemable as Denzel Washingtons in Training Day, we could have had a real statement movie that addressed the issue of racist attitudes towards interracial relationships. And the start actually offered a glimpse of a similar potential- the trick of introducing Wilsons Chris Mattson as the removal man, and guiding the audiences misdirected assumption that Ron Glass and Kerry Washington are a couple plays upon a form of institutionalized racism that assumes race attracts its fellow, and that interracial relationships are somehow less likely. The revelation that the relationship between Glass and Washington is that of father and daughter, and it is the removal man who is in fact her husband genuinely shocked me, because of the way the direction presents it. The strange resolution to watching Jackson die is not a feeling of justice, as should be the case with someone who is so villainous in flashes- but rather it is one of mild discomfort as we watch a heart-broken, clearly mentally unstable man gunned down. The one major problem with Jacksons character is the lack of depth that is afforded to developing his psyche and his conflict- if we were offered more in way of explanatory scenes we could perhaps understand him better. As it is the brief scenes of him on the beat seem like an after-thought, and dont really accomplish anything other than show that he is morally dubious and willing to go beyond normal methods to get the job done. But we already know this from the immediate story of his terrorizing of the young newly weds- the attempt to set a context is admirable, but it could have been done infinitely better, and in a less obviously derivative way (the scenes will be way too familiar for fans of Training Day). I cant help but feel that the claustrophobic feel of the film would have been served better by a more precise focus, rather than the adherence to generic convention that marks the final third of the film. I enjoyed squirming as Abel set about systematically irritating the couple out of their new house and found the cumulative drama far more agonising than the eventual Hollywood ending tagged onto it. There is a manful attempt towards creating an unbearably tense atmosphere with the quickly approaching bush-fires, and with the fairly stereotypical cast of trusting neighbours who fail to see Abels naughty side, but the films macho ending somewhat undoes the good work. So too the decision to make Abel a police officer helps Chris and Lisas alienation as it takes away the usual structures of safety, and harks back to the genre-high of Unlawful Entry, but again the fact that LaBute seems to have substituted his aspirations for social significance with an adrenaline fuelled battle of machismo in the final moments of the film is a killer. Maybe Im a sadist, but I didnt want to see Jacksons Abel die- I would have preferred him to survive and for Chris and Lisa to move out: not because I am in any way prejudiced, but because it would have served the films socio-political sensibilities better. We would have been left with the resounding feel that Abels own particular brand of prejudice is still an all-too present symptom of our current social predicament, rather than a pleasant feeling that the bad man, and thus his beliefs have been vanquished. Anyone who has seen the excellent, but frankly pant-shittingly scary Eden Lake will agree that Good triumphing over Evil is not always the best outcome for a film that seeks to be as affecting and politicized as Lakeview Terrace seems initially to be. For a film that so self-consciously highlights prevailing social fissures and the ridiculous disparity between the utopian ideal of an Obama-inspired culture of change and equality and the reality of social inequality to abandon its principles and wrap up the plot in a neat little Hollywood action package is a somewhat difficult pill to swallow for me. Extras Once again I have to say its nothing spectacular: I wait with eager anticipation the Blu-Ray release that hits the Extras heights of Tropic Thunder, and sadly, Lakeview Terrace gets nowhere near. A reasonable Commentary track with Neil LaBute and actress Kerry Washington is about as good as it gets, although the decision to ask Washington along merely indicates for me the unavailability of either Wilson or Jackson. The other supplemental features, including the Welcome to Lakeview Terrace featurettes and Deleted Scenes are unremarkable, and seem again to simply be a nod towards the supposed established expectations a Blu-Ray or DVD buyer will have. Come on, people, inspire me- where are the mini-docs about racial prejudices, or even some sort of developed insight into the Rodney King story that casts a huge shadow over the production but is never really mentioned in the film? Even an interview with Samuel L Jackson would have been welcome, to celebrate the fact that he has managed to make a watchable film.