Lakeview Terrace ★★★½

Habitually, the thriller genre uses an enigma as its 'thrill emitter;' the mystery that must be uncovered is usually the source of the films perpetuating paranoia and palpable intensity. However, once in a while a film comes along and subverts this popular method. Instead of a baffling conundrum that needs resolving, all the thrills and all the tautness derives from a moral conflict that lights an aggressive fire.

Neil LaBute's Lakeview Terrace detaches itself from many 21st century thrillers with its provocative motifs incessantly brewing in the undercurrent. We are brought on a journey that not only supplies a fascinating and original perspective on discrimination, but a stimulating examination of how racism, prejudice and an inclination for violence eliminates any decency in the possessor. These attributes in a person are blinding, and Lakeview Terrace passionately accentuates this.

Abel Turner is not a man you would like to quarrel with. He's an incredibly stringent father and a fierce police officer who shows no mercy to those he encounters. Once an interracial couple move in next door, Turner's tendency for bigotry is brought to the very forefront of his personality. The couple and Turner battle for their place in the neighbourhood, and the once passive arguments escalate to harrowing heights.

Turner is played by the one and only Samuel L. Jackson, and he slips into this role immaculately. Jackson's startling power is in full flight here, and what he injects into Abel Turner is formidable -- his presence, once we delve into the film, is unnerving. If any other actor played this part, it would most likely crash and burn, because despite his barbarity, Turner is our main focus in the film. We do find the character despicable, but with Jackson filling Abel's shoes, he's mesmerizing.

But we must not forget the two other important performers -- being Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington. Wilson is on top form here as the anxious husband who's trying to get to the bottom of Jackson's extreme and ever-growing dislike for them, and Washington is just as good, giving her troubled wife a commanding presence on screen, never allowing us to forget her. when the film makes its mistakes, the actors are always there to keep us transfixed with their bonafide portrayals.

Lakeview Terrace's subtlety, at least in the first two acts, keeps the intensity copious. It's a brooding atmosphere, and LaBute maintains a sense of believability for most of the time. He and his writers never lash out in expository dialogue that defines the character's beliefs, but rather allows us to slowly comprehend their opinions through meticulously scripted sentences, that gradually present the character's (mainly Abel's) intentions.

The film is always brewing and purposeful; keeping us on our toes with its disquieting ambiance which toils away modestly. But regrettably once the third act arrives, most of the understatement of the film is abandoned. Lakeview Terrace instead bursts out into gratuitous sequences and adopts a more mainstream thriller conclusion. It's a shame, because all the rumblings and disturbances of the first two sections felt like it was amounting to something quite staggering.

Lakeview Terrace is both thrilling and challenging; disconcerting and introspective. It investigates the rocky coalition of races in today's society, and how they still clash behind the scenes with deplorable consequences. All these themes are smoothly placed in the background of this strong thriller - one that may loose its head in the third act, but is a jolting experience nonetheless.

"We're not moving"

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