The funny thing about cops is that they are as scary as they are comforting. I get nervous around them, even when I know I’ve done nothing wrong. Give the wrong guy a gun and a badge, and you’ve got a real problem on your hands. Lakeview Terrace taps into this fear with mixed results.
The movie features Samuel L. Jackson (Black Snake Moan) as police officer Abel Turner, and Kerry Washington (I Think I Love My Wife) and Patrick Wilson as Chris and Lisa Mattson, Turner’s new neighbors. Abel is a disciplinarian to his teenage daughter and young son, and their sole provider. Although the movie begins with him behaving in a relatively normal manner, there is a hint of menace beneath his authoritarian demeanor. He takes an almost instant dislike to his new neighbors, particularly Chris. Chris seems like the kind of guy who’d have a “kick me” sign stuck to his back, and Abel takes full advantage – screwing with Chris enough to rattle him, but not enough to do serious harm or amount to an actionable complaint. For example, after pretending to be a carjacker under the guise of teaching neighborhood safety, Abel tells Chris to turn down the rap music playing from his car radio. Chris complies, and at the end of their exchange, Abel tells Chris that no matter how much he listens to that music, “he’ll still be White.” Yep. Oh yeah. Make no bones about it, the reason Abel dislikes his new neighbors is because he’s not down with the swirl, at all. No ebony and ivory. No salt and pepper, get it? Lisa is Black and Chris is White, if you didn’t know that already. And if you’re offended by my corny references to interracial dating, then I suggest you avoid Lakeview Terrace, because much worse is said in the movie. Abel refers to Lisa as Chris’ little “chocolate drop,” and numerous disparaging references are made to the couple’s racial makeup throughout the movie. It’s kinda funny at first, in an uncomfortable way. Sam Jack has a way of making everything sound funny, you know it’s true. But after a while it becomes trite and a little gimmicky. It’s fine to deal with the interracial marriage aspect in an intelligent manner, and we see glimpses of this when Chris and Lisa argue about having a child and their relationship with each other’s families, however; I think some of Jackson’s lines were rather low-brow. All that aside, there were some good moments in the movie. Jackson is great as the villain. He goes from mildly unsettling to vengeful to homicidal, and it doesn’t feel extreme until the movie is almost over.
I like Kerry Washington and thought she had good chemistry with Patrick Wilson, but some of their scenes just annoyed me. I hate when couples do the whole kissy-face smoochy smoochy thing. Just get it on, or cut it out. I predict this movie will not be a favorite amongst the brothers for the very same reason Sam Jack’s character had beef with Chris: a lot of people still dislike the idea of Black women dating White men. There, I said it. Right or wrong, it’s true. Now how’s that for life imitating art and vice versa?
This article first appeared on Poptimal and can be found at http://poptimal.com/2008/09/welcome-to-the-neighborhood/ . The article was reprinted with permission.