Obviously inspired by a notorious real-life case in which an African-American Los Angeles police officer was accused of harassing his bi-racial neighbors, this is an extension of Neil LaBute’s penchant for male cruelty and intractable dominance, as previously evidenced in his re-make of “The Wicker Man” and “In the Company of Men.”
A 28-year veteran of the LAPD, Abel Turner (Samuel L. Jackson) is a widower father and stern disciplinarian of his teenage daughter (Regine Nahy) and younger son (Jaishon Fisher). They live on a cul de sac in Lakeview Terrace, a privileged enclave that he patrols at night in his big, black SUV as an off-duty officer. But because he’s a bigoted bully at heart, when mixed-marriage newlyweds, Chris (Patrick Wilson) and Lisa (Kerry Washington), move in next-door, he’s enraged. So he devises ways to intimidate and psychologically torture the couple: focusing high-intensity outdoor strobe lights into their bedroom, blasting music at night, slashing the tires on Chris’ white Prius. And to whom can they complain? The police department seems solidly behind the deranged Turner. But then his heavy-handed, villainous tactics start to backfire on his job in South Central, just as seasonal wildfires are threatening their exclusive slice of suburbia.
Written by David Loughery and Howard Korder, directed by LaBute and produced by Will Smith and James Lassiter, it starts off with a promising jolt of menace but soon deteriorates into predictable, formulaic mayhem that’s rooted in prejudice. What rescues it from being totally repellent are convincing performances from both Samuel L. Jackson and Kerry Washington, while Patrick Wilson seems buried in blandness. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Lakeville Terrace” is a foul 4, representing yet another strike against the floundering Southern California real estate market.