Sunday, 7 December 2008

REVIEW: Lakeview Terrace

Neil LaBute may be up there with the most under-achieving directors in the history of cinema. After his darker than dark debut masterpiece In the company of men, he has either inferiorly repeated himself or sold out to almost laughable effect, as anyone who has seen his wicker man remake will testify to. Stateside, his latest Lakeview Terrace was hailed as a mild return to form. Not a complete recovery, but a definate step in the right direction. Well in fairness anything is a step in the right direction after the Wicker Man, but this film is a relatively good spin on the old neighbour from hell scenario.

The story sees a young inter-racial couple (Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington) move in to a nice house in a surburban neighbourhood, but their liberal lifestyle and relationship upsets a right-wing rule-abiding single-father/cop (Samuel L Jackson) and he seeks to undermine them at every turn. We've all seen this film before, but it's entertaining enough, mostly thanks to Jackson's performance. Because he makes a fair few terrible films, its easy to forget how good Jackson can be when he gets down to some serious acting. And while this film is certainly not great, its Jackson's best performance in a while. Patrick Wilson, an actor who is repeatedly burned by critics - particularly in Hard Candy, where hysteria surrounding Ellen Page's albeit terrific performance left him unfairly ignored - gets your pretty standard under-written straight man role, and thus inevitably gets blasted off the screen by Jackson. Washington fairs better, and is most definately someone to watch. But the problem is the film jumps the shark, so to speak, in its final third and what started as a reasonably realistic and slow-burn drama/thriller becomes a ridiculously overblown pseudo action thriller and a bad one at that, with Jackson's character getting more contradictory by the second. LaBute is not a great visual director, but used to distinguish himself by the quality of the written material, Not so here, with the committee written script sadly lacklustre.

So, not a return to form per say, but more a return to mediocrity which for LaBute is currently a good thing. If your a Jackson fan, check it out for some prime Jacksoning, but otherwise there isn't all that much to recommend.

Rating: 5/10

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