Saturday, November 01, 2008

Lakeview Terrace

I'm Watching You

Watching this movie brought back some memories of the well-publicized spat between neighbours in the neighbourhood of Joo Chiat, with their antics which included the shining of spot lights at each other's house, the trading of barbs and insults, and the use of video recorders to tape down the other's antics. Naturally there are no weapons involved, but otherwise, I thought Lakeview Terrace rang home some of the issues that these folks probably faced day to day. I'm not sure what the outcome of that spat is now though.

Lakeview Terrace is one of those movies that just is, with a rather straightforward plot to begin with, presenting us with the backgrounds of the characters before putting them into each other's way with conflicting values and opportunities for quarrel spawned from misunderstandings and petty non-compromise. It's also about how the male ego refuses to back down and in wanting to have the last say, coupled with the mindset of “I was here first so bugger off” attitude. The race card doesn't get trumpeted out loud, but it does rear its head as potential flare points every now and then, though skimming the surface most of the time.

The titular area has reference and significance to the Rodney King assault case, though now it becomes the backdrop of a cinematic neighbourly spat against the background of the infamous Californian fires. We get introduced to the Turner family, where Dad and policeman Abel (Samuel L. Jackson) rules the household and his kids with an iron fist and his incessant and traditional rules, frowning upon anything he deems as decadent. In comes mixed newly wed couple Chris and Lisa Mattson (Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington respectively), who irks our cop next door with their very open public display of affection in the pool at their backyard, in full view of Abel's children, and so the line has been crossed.

There are enough rogue cop movies out there such as Unlawful Entry with the cops threatening the peaceful lives of ordinary citizens in the neighbourhood, and this one is but one of the rather mediocre entries to the genre, with the story unravelling itself in very straightforward terms without any build up to the final act. There were opportunities that could have redeemed it, such as having a central crime piece turn awry, but alas it became something half-baked, and served only as a means of finding an exit out of the movie and end it.

While certain scenes do seem that they were juxtaposed around, what managed to make this movie a cut above the rest, is once again the enigmatic presence of Samuel L. Jackson and his bad-ass attitude, amplified here because he's a cop and the law, and there's nobody one can turn to when they have to call the police authorities. A glint of the eye, a terse question asked in interrogation style, or a smile that hides its true intent, almost everything Samuel L Jackson does, tells you that you're basically screwed should you stand on the opposite end of his beliefs. And both Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington demonstrate that emotion quite perfectly (though of course it's probably not that difficult to do too) through their rather meek characters who can be stepped all over given their lack of assertion of their opinions.

But it's not all stern stuff from Jackson as there was a scene he shares with Wilson that provided some clues into his background and to try and elicit some sympathy from the audience with regards to his character's alleged racism and intolerance for terms other than his own, besides revealing the source of his pain. Alas by the time this came through, it didn't really matter and after realizing that the narrative had dragged a little too long, proceeded with quite a hasty finale to wrap up all the loose corners, a tad too conveniently too I may add.

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