"You guys are lucky. You have a cop livin' next door..."
Lakeview Terrace is a 2008 film directed by Neil La Bute (In the Company of Men, Death at a Funeral) and produced by Will Smith. The film stars Samuel L. Jackson, Patrick Wilson (The A-Team), and Kerry Washington (I Think I Love My Wife).Chris and Lisa Mattsen are a young, recently married interracial couple who have just moved into a "starter home" in an upper-middle class neighborhood near Los Angeles, California. Looking forward to starting their brand new life together, the Mattsens have few worries aside from getting settled in, and when they should start talking about starting a family. That is, until they meet their new neighbor, Abel Turner.Abel is an old-fashioned, conservative beat cop who has spent the last several years after his wife's death raising his two children in the very same neighborhood. He disapproves of Chris and Lisa's relationship, and wastes little time in letting them know how he feels about it... even going so far as to make vague threats, turn his security lights so that they shine directly into the couple's bedroom window, and sabotaging things around the house. When Chris responds in kind in an effort to show Abel that they are there to stay, the situation quickly escalates. With no fear from police interference due to being a cop himself, Abel becomes increasingly determined to drive his new neighbors out, and is willing to use any means necessary to do it.
Lakeview Terrace includes examples of:
Abusive Parents: Abel. The sad irony is, on some level, he genuinely means well and wants the best for his children, but his uber-strict and controlling ways turn him into this.
Cynicism Catalyst: The event that ultimately drove Turner to focus his rage on the young interracial couple is revealed to be the death of his wife, who was killed in a car accident with her white boss; they were having an affair. It is implied that she was going to run away with him.
Dirty Cop: Abel Turner is shown to be a man who won't hesitate to break the rules to get whatever he wants, whether it's at home or on the job.
Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male: Averted. In one of the most disturbing scenes in the movie Abel has his friends hold down Chris while he's sexually assaulted by a stripper. When his wife finds the video in her mailbox the next day, she knows damn well Chris was assaulted.
Though Lisa does this herself. She purposely stops taking her birth control pills without telling Chris despite him telling her that he is not ready for a child. When she becomes pregnant, he is made to look like a jerk for not being happy about having a kid.
"Friends" Rent Control: Only in Hollywood would anyone consider the Mattsens' house a "starter home". A house that size, in that neighborhood of L.A. (which has some of the highest housing costs in the U.S.), with a decent sized in-ground pool, would easily cost seven figures. Abel as well, who can afford his own home on a beat cop's salary. Even with the mention of him "working my ads off, saving every dime," it's too much of a stretch.
The Informant: Clarence Darlington is a small time drug dealer and Abel Turner's informant.
Law of Inverse Fertility: Played with. Lisa gets pregnant even though she and Chris had agreed to wait. Chris is not happy about this, and it turns out she had stopped taking her birth control pills. She claims she forgot, but it's pretty clear she was getting fed up with waiting and probably did it on purpose. They ultimately decide to have the child.
Maligned Mixed Marriage: Abel's harrassment towards Chris and Lisa Mattsen, played by Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington is based on his racist attitudes, and the fact that they're a mixed race couple.
Rabid Cop: Abel didn't so much as to lost his sense of morality by the time the film begins.
Rule of Symbolism: Pay attention to what people drink in this movie: the first thing we see is Abel drinking a glass of water in the morning; Chris drinks water later on, but only after his first altercation with Abel. When they agree to meet in a bar to discuss the matter between, Chris conspicuously orders water, but Abel is drinking alcohol. Water puts out fires. Alcohol is an accelerant.
Abel: "Or what? You'll call the cops? Here, use my phone. I can tell you exactly who is on duty."
Shown Their Work: Until about the third act, Abel's behavior (especially toward his daughter) is a disturbingly accurate depiction of an abusive law enforcement officer using techniques learned on the job at home.
That and the raging fire happening in the background.
Sleeping with the Boss: This turns out to be a major plot point. Turner's wife was having an affair with her white boss, and they died in a car accident together. The affair resulted in Turner hating interracial couples, and it's the reason he harasses the lead couple.
The criminal Abel hired to trash the couple's house. Shall we recap? He's over six feet tall and weighs about 300 lbs and he was wearing a ski mask and yet thought it would be a good idea to grab Lisa and tell her "calm down" instead of hightailing it out of the house before anyone showed up? Brilliant, sir.
Abel himself, in the final scene. He was a bit unhinged at the time, but lying to the cops about not having a weapon was idiotic, even before he drew it. As a career cop himself, he should know that when the police show up, the best thing to do is to follow their instructions and put his weapon down, and let them sort it out afterwards.
Trailers Always Spoil: A rare inversion. The fact that Abel is a policeman is no secret or twist in the film, but the trailer doesn't reveal this until about half way through. This gets the audience much more interested in seeing it by showing that the plot of this film is much more intense.
Two-Person Pool Party: While Abel already disapproves of the Mattsens as a couple along with their liberal attitudes, his children seeing the pair getting hot and heavy in their swimming pool one evening doesn't help matters.
Villain Protagonist: The focus on the film is mainly about Abel himself, due to his actor getting the top billing.