Making the Grades
"To protect and to serve" is taken to a whole new level by Abel Turner (Samuel Jackson). The 28-year-veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department never puts his gun down. When he's not patrolling his culturally diverse inner city district with his Hispanic partner (Jay Hernandez), he's walking his own self-imposed beat in the quiet suburb where he lives.
Seemingly possessed with an extreme sense of duty, Abel's need to control the choices and actions of others spills into every aspect of his life. Along with being a stickler for the proper use of English, the officer enforces a strict moral code at home and is tough on his two children (Regine Nehy, Jaishon Fisher). At work, he gives new meaning to the term "police brutality" when he threatens to shoot a man (Caleeb Pinkett) in the face with his own shotgun after interceding in a domestic dispute. The only time his staunch ethical stand wavers is at a bachelor party he hosts for one of his fellow workers that includes scantily clad lap dancers.
Still, the vigilant cop brings a certain amount of comfort to most of the residents on his street. However for his new next-door neighbors, Chris and Lisa Mattson (Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington), his diligence borders on vigilantism. And it doesn't take long for the young couple to discern how he feels about their interracial marriage and their sexual activities in their private, backyard pool.
But when Abel's crude, racial remarks, sexual innuendos and conjugal interference cause Chris to resort to retaliation, the peaceful street turns into a scene straight out of High Noon. Along with vulgar verbal shrapnel (including two strong, sexual expletives), real bullets start flying and blood flows after a hired thug breaks into the Mattson home.
Soon it appears everyone is struggling with racial issues, and the exchange of curt comments happens as often between Chris and Lisa as does the name-calling between neighbors. In fact, it's hard at times to know who is the biggest enemy in the film. Nor will Abel's bad cop character do anything to improve the image of real LAPD officers, even if his harassment makes the "average" bad neighbor look a whole lot better.
Unfortunately, far too often this thriller feels more tedious than tense. Without many jump scenes or a satisfying culmination to the house wars, the movie's only point seems to be that whether between neighbors or couples, relationships aren't just black and white.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Lakeview Terrace.
How are interracial relationships portrayed in this film? What drives Abel’s negative feelings toward Chris and Lisa? How does society in general regard couples of mixed race in comparison to past decades?
When does police authority cross the line and become harassment or abuse? At what point does community involvement become vigilantism?
Does the use of ethno-cultural slurs and other derogatory terms in films increase the acceptance of these kinds of remarks in real life interactions?