The year was 2008. The month was September. The theater spread was more than 2500. And yet I never once heard of Lakeview Terrace until the press release for the home video release came down the pike. I didn’t even recall a single trailer for it either; then again my TV viewing is limited and I wasn’t going to theaters during that time, so that may have a large part to do with it. Still, with a solid performance by Samuel L. Jackson, the film received moderate critical praise before bowing out of theaters in November with enough in box office sales to double its budget. Not bad for a film that I’d never even heard of.
A young couple (Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington) has just moved into their California dream home when they become the target of their next-door neighbor, who disapproves of their relationship. A stern, single father, this tightly wound LAPD officer (Samuel L. Jackson) has appointed himself the watchdog of the neighborhood. His nightly foot patrols and overly watchful eyes bring comfort to some, but he becomes increasingly aggressive to the newlyweds. These persistent intrusions into their lives cause the couple to fight back.
So despite a bit of a quiet box office performance (though it was by no means disappointing; again, it basically doubled its budget in theaters alone) and never having heard of it, Lakeview Terrace really surprised me. I could tell from the trailers (for the home video release, mind you, which I have seen) that it’d be moderately entertaining; after all, Samuel L. Jackson is almost always entertaining and his role as a bit of a hard ass cop peppered with racial fueled jokes certainly looked like it’d make for an interesting time. It’s not often that Jackson plays a villain you genuinely hate, but man…he really gets under your skin here. Usually even when he’s a bad guy he’s still cool as can be, but in this movie…
Well, quite frankly Jackson’s character was nothing more than a racist ass. I actually grew tired of his constant putting down of Chris (Wilson) and the way he treated his kids. They attempt to “fix” his character later in the film with a heart-to-heart with Chris at a bar, where he reveals the tragedy behind his wife’s death but by then it’s too little too late. On top of that, nothing about his character would point to how far he eventually went in the end of the film, which really was a little too hard to swallow at that point. Still, it was interesting to see Jackson in such a role, as nothing about his character here was the least bit redeemable; his neighbors hated him, his sister seemed to hate him and his kids (daughter at least) were definitely not fond of him or his rules.
The rest of the cast I either felt sorry for or really just disliked. Chris and Lisa were a relatively nice couple whose lives were really only aggravated by Abel (Jackson) and Lisa’s father (played by Ron Glass), who were really the same kind of people, although Abel’s racist remarks were jacked up about twelve levels higher than Glass’s. Even through all of these sequences where Chris and Lisa had their relationship mocked and tested, however, they persevered. Hell, even when Abel attempts to blackmail Chris (blackmail that eventually leads nowhere, by the way), Lisa just eventually ignores it. It’s a rather contrived plot as far as how it’s supposed to affect the individuals in the film, as those who are to be most affected by Abel’s actions, his children, are eventually written out of the story as Abel goes off the rocker.
Still, as disappointing as the film ended up being, it was an entertaining ride if just to see where it ended up. I can’t say the end result was all that satisfying and the ending is left kind of vague as to what happened to everyone (though it’s easy enough to fill in the blanks), but in the end you don’t really care anyway. For what it is, it’s an entertaining film but there’s almost too little villainy involved and aside from the ending, the rest of the film just feels like a big character study. Worth a Rental at the very least, but anything more and you’ll be doing yourself a disservice.
Sony has released Lakeview Terrace in a single disc Blu-ray release in a standard Elite case with the usual Sony inserts. Menus are simple and easy to navigate and everything about this release is pretty standard. No slipcover or anything fancy either; this is a standard by-the-numbers release from beginning to end.
The AVC encoded transfer for the film is quite nice to look at. With the beautiful neighborhood and homes of Lakeview Terrace on full display, the daytime sequences are vivid and full of detail, while the nighttime floodlight fueled sequences are every bit as filled with detail. Everything about the film looks terrific, but you may not notice little details such as wall textures or hair strands since most of your time will be spent wondering why Jackson is such an ass. The TrueHD 5.1 mix is nice as well, but it really only comes alive during the party sequence, with plenty of crowd surrounds and thumping subwoofer action. The rest of the film, however, is spent in the front channels which bring forth the films copious amounts of dialogue with absolute clarity.
Moving onto the extras we first get a Commentary with Director Neil Labute and Kerry Washingtonthat is quite entertaining if you want to learn about the whole behind the scenes process of making this film. Washington is quiet for the most part and her presence here is actually kind of strange, as she is far from the star of the film. Labute makes up for her silence, however, with lots of information about the production of the film…assuming you care about all of that, at least.
Moving on we have a series of Deleted Scenes (13:49, 480i) w/ optional commentary by Labute that really add nothing to the film and finally Welcome to Lakeview Terrace Behind-the-Scenes Featurettes (19:31, 1080i), a six-part making-of for the film. It’s pretty basic stuff, but, again, if you enjoyed the film then there should be some stuff you find here that’s interesting.
Overall this wasn’t the best Jackson film I’ve seen, but it certainly was interesting to see him play a real villain that you could genuinely hate. However it ended up going too far as I really just ended him hating him flat out, which made for a tiresome final hour of the film which only progressively got more and more ridiculous. The film is still worth a rental, but this release isn’t even worth that as what’s here to check out is really only going to be worth checking out if you enjoyed the film in the first place. Skip It.
Lakeview Terrace is now available on DVD and Blu-ray