We are often told that moving house if the third most stressful event after death and divorce – a premise that works well in Lakeview Terrace. When a young couple find their dream home, they also discover that the neighbourhood comes with some extra additives they hadn’t bargained on in the form of the ultimate nosy, and very dangerous, neighbour. Veteran Los Angeles cop, Abel Turner (Samuel L Jackson) guards his locality with the same zeal he brings to his patrol route. The single father is one-man security force, ensuring that his strict standards of behaviour are adhered to, even if it means ruffling a few feathers in the process. Chris (Patrick Wilson) and Lisa Mattson (Kerry Washington), a progressive and upwardly mobile couple, move in next door to Turner, who disapproves of their interracial marriage. Hoping to rid the neighbourhood of anything or anyone
he deems “undesirable,” Turner launches an escalating series of pranks and insults against the Mattsons. From ignoring their request to focus his high-voltage safety lights away from their bedroom to disrupting a housewarming party, the lawman takes full advantage of his police connections to antagonize the new arrivals with impunity, hoping to get them to pick up and move out. When his use of inappropriate force on the job lands
Turner on extended leave, he devotes himself fulltime to harassing his young neighbours, including tyre slashing, breaking household equipment and hosting parties long into the night. As Turner crosses the line from annoying neighbour to dangerous adversary,
The young couple try to fight back, feeding his fury and creating a high-stakes game where injury is just around the corner.
Set in Los Angeles, a city where racial hatred regularly flares up with deadly consequences, it provided the perfect backdrop for scriptwriter David Loughrey who see the story not so much as about race as it is about personal space, boundaries, and the lengths people will go to protect their property. Who amongst us hasn’t had the hassle of a barking dog, a constant stereo on full volume or never-ending parties go dangerously close to an all-out feud? And when the neighbour upon whom one might call the police is, in fact, a policeman himself, what would you do? As someone who once endured bad neighbours in an apartment underneath for six months, this writer can well feel the pain of this young couple. While all the other trials of life can at least allow for a degree of control, the testy and tricky process of solving bad neighbours can become one of the great nuisances of modern life. However, when the neighbour in question is a cop – and an enraged, out-dated, old-fashioned and racially outraged cop at that – well, it surely makes for a scenario worse even than falling property values. Jackson delivers a sterling performance here – a man masking his inner turmoil with the ‘good cop’ image that allows him terrorise innocent people by using his badge as a cover for his own ends. Wilson and Washington are equally able in their roles – a liberal young couple forced to confront the unpalatable truth that sometimes you have to fight fire with fire to get a result. This is the kind of bad cop film that recalls Training Day with Denzil Washington, and how the misuse of power can become a fearful weapon when applied to a gentrified, suburban neighbourhood where all the other folks on the terrace stay securely behind the curtains hoping the trouble will stay away from their patch. Lakeview Terrace, well paced and edited by director Neil La Bute, is a parable for our times – and especially in our new multi-cultural Ireland, where disputes could easily become more highly charged due to cultural differences. Engaging and scary.