In his previous films, writer/director Neil LaBute has warned us that even disabled women aren’t safe In the Company of Men, one never can predict the deception living within the hearts of Your Friends & Neighbors, pleasant symmetry isn’t to be expected in The Shape of Things, and you don’t need medical training to be called Nurse Betty. And although he’s moved away from the Mamet-like morality tales of the evil lurking behind the smiling and welcoming faces we encounter on a daily basis by directing some less-than-stellar Hollywood fare, his obsession with miscommunication, misperception, and the just plain meanness to be found in the unlikeliest of places is again the subject of his entertaining if lukewarm new thriller Lakeview Terrace.
Unfortunately, its heroic main characters, the young, bright, and beautiful interracial couple Chris (Little Children’s Patrick Wilson) and Lisa Mattson (Kerry Washington), weren’t forewarned with a LaBute memo. Thankfully, their new neighbor, the stoic disciplinarian and widowed LAPD police officer Abel Turner (Samuel L. Jackson) is not only able but all too willing to turn and inform them that they’re not exactly welcome in his neighborhood. Greeting them with the intimidating gesture of an unfilled out traffic ticket with a note scrawled on the back that either threatens or chides, “Welcome to Lakeview, neighbor; observe all parking regulations,” it’s only a matter of time before he decides to confront Chris directly.
“Meet Your New Neighbor.”
Obviously, one shouldn’t rely too heavily on first impressions and Lisa tries to give her new neighbor the benefit of the doubt but it’s Chris who receives the most disdain as Abel not only repeatedly announces his dissatisfaction with their relationship but also begins to drive a wedge in the previously solid relationship between the married Mattsons. Whether it’s refusing to take down his insanely bright security lights that seem like they could double at an airstrip, which flood through his neighbor’s windows and emit an annoying high-pitched buzzing, running a near dictatorship when dealing with his two children, or when he’s all too willing to cross a line at work along with his loyal partner Javier Villareal (the always talented Jay Hernandez), eventually Chris has had enough.