Lakeview Terrace: Samuel L. Jackson Hates His Neighbors

Set in the titular suburb in Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley (where Rodney King was assaulted by police in 1991), this potboiler about an African-American cop (Samuel L. Jackson) wreaking havoc on the lives of the newlywed interracial couple next door (Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington) may seem like another atypical digression for playwright-filmmaker Neil LaBute, who's been absent from movie screens since his universally mocked Wicker Man remake. But peer beneath Lakeview Terrace's lurid, exploitation-movie surface and you'll find a vintage LaBute proposition: a taut three-hander that explores the space between surface appearances and realities, between what people say and what they really think. Although it's being marketed as a run-of-the-mill psycho-cop romp, Lakeview Terrace—the first LaBute movie since Nurse Betty on which he takes no screenplay credit—may be the perfect movie for the political moment, in that it's about people's latent prejudices: the ones they don't admit to in mixed company, and perhaps can't even acknowledge to themselves. Rather deftly, there's even a car crash or two, though that doesn't bring any of the movie's characters closer to a shared understanding. Can't we all just get along? LaBute doesn't deign to pretend as though he knows the answer.

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