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Film / Lakeview Terrace

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"You guys are lucky. You have a cop livin' next door..."

Lakeview Terrace is a 2008 film loosely Based on a True Story, directed by Neil LaBute (In the Company of Men, Death at a Funeral) and produced by Will Smith. The film stars Samuel L. Jackson, Patrick Wilson, and Kerry Washington.

Chris Mattson (Wilson) and his wife Lisa (Washington) 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 Mattsons 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 (Jackson).

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.
  • Actor Allusion:
    • Robert Pine plays a cop.
    • This isn't the first time Samuel L. Jackson has played a Black police officer who abuses his authority for selfish and violent means, and is shown throughout the story to ultimately be an irredeemable villain.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Abel himself at the end, as he fully snaps due to a combination of his tragic backstory combined with Chris' taunts and his death is a clear example of Suicide by Cop.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: At the very end when Chris is pointing a gun at Abel, and the cops tell him to drop his gun Lisa implores that he comply and Abel mockingly says "listen to your wife," and Chris remembers the conversation at the bar and asks Abel, "did you listen to your wife?" And then yells at an enraged Abel that the reason his wife cheated on him is because she grew tired of his self centered and controlling personality and was just looking for someone who listened to her concerns and showed her some affection.
  • Asshole Victim: Although despite the tragedies Abel had to endure, his tyrannical behavior towards his kids, his harassment of Chris and Lisa, using his status as a cop to abuse his power and being an overall dickhead throughout the film, very few people shed tears when Abel is gunned down.
  • Bad Cop/Incompetent Cop: While Abel (played by Samuel L. Jackson) is harassing the Mattsons, the rest of the police force turns a blind eye to his actions until it's too late.
  • Batman Gambit:
    • The final scene. Chris knows Abel can use his influence to get the cops on his side if he surrenders, so he taunts Abel about his late wife's affair until Abel commits Suicide by Cop.
    • Abel's use of his informant to break into the house and subsequent improvisation by shooting him. He'd have got away with it if Chris didn't find the guy's phone.
  • Berserk Button: Oh boy, Abel.
    • Don't challenge his authority in any way. Abel antagonizes his daughter while she's swimming in the Mattsons' pool but when she talks back he smacks her. When confronted with authority figures who actually hold him to account like Internal Affairs he doesn't dare talk back but you can tell he's fuming.
    • Don't bring up his wife or the affair. Chris ends up invoking this deliberately to provoke Abel into revealing his gun, prompting the cops to turn on him.
  • Bigot with a Badge: Abel Turner (Samuel L. Jackson) is a Scary Black Man version of this. A young interracial couple just so happens to have moved in next door, which he does NOT approve of. He proceeds to terrorize his new neighbors and uses his position as a cop to get away with it, even going so far as to have the husband sexually assaulted by a stripper and ultimately attempting to murder him.
  • Black Gal on White Guy Drama: Basically what this movie is all about, as this is a dramatic story where the main protagonists are an interracial couple comprised of a White man and a Black woman. The drama in this case is caused by a racist man who happens to be Black.
  • Blasphemous Boast: Abel gives one to a perp midway through the movie when he asks if the incident was going to happen again:
    Perp: No, sir! I swear to God! It won't happen again!
    Abel: God ain't here! You swear to me!
  • Blood Is Squicker in Water: When Clarence is shot and killed by Abel, the former falls backwards into the Mattson pool.
  • The Cameo: Ron Glass shows up for two brief scenes as Lisa’s father.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Clearance.
  • Contraception Deception: Lisa gets pregnant even though she and her husband Chris had agreed to wait, especially when they're dealing with a psycho cop neighbor. 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.
  • Cranky Neighbor: Abel will stop at nothing to get rid of the new couple in the neighborhood.
  • 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, mostly due to Abel's strictness.
  • 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.
    • Abel's cop friends (as in, close friends of his who happen to be cops), don't care about Abel's corruption and even go as far as pin Chris down so that a female stripper can sexually assault Chris. Although it's implied it is more of the fact that they are simply respecting Abel rather than actually being as dirty as him.
  • 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.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Abel's particularly upset at the prospect of being forced into retirement, openly asking if this is all he gets after 28 years. The fact that his own behavior led to this situation is lost on him.
  • Fat Bastard: Clarence Darlington, Abel's informant. He's a very unpleasant person and a very large man.
  • Foreshadowing: The first thing we see Abel do in the movie is chide his son for wearing a Kobe Bryant jersey. At first it seems to be a normal reaction for a cop seeing his son in the merchandise of an accused rapist, but given what we learn later, this is a whopper of a clue as to his attitude towards interracial coupling (Kobe's accuser was a white hotel employee, and at bare minimum, he cheated on his wife.)
  • "Friends" Rent Control: Only in Hollywood would anyone consider the Mattsons' 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 ass off, saving every dime," it's too much of a stretch. At the same time he had bought the house 20 years earlier and he probably has already paid it off.
  • Hypocrite: Abel casually mentions to Chris about his dead wife and uses the fact that she cheated on him with a white man to justify his hate. But during the final scene, when Chris taunts Abel about his wife, Abel becomes enraged at Chris for "mentioning [his] wife's name" and tries to shoot him with his concealed weapon. Considering that, it's almost certain that using his wife's death to justify his hatred earlier was more of an excuse than an actual motive to indulge his hatred and power on the couple.
  • Implausible Deniability: Lisa gets pregnant, and Chris discovers that she has stopped taking her birth control without telling him. When he confronts her about it, she claims she forgot, but she doesn't make eye contact, and she hadn't just missed one or two doses, she had outright stopped taking them. All this makes her excuse a little hard to believe.
  • The Informant: Clarence Darlington is a small time drug dealer and Abel Turner's informant.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Abel justifies his prejudiced feelings towards Chris by relating a personal incident in which his wife was killed in a car accident because she may have been cheating on her white boss. Problem is, that Abel made a point to mention that the boss was white, which he surely had no reason to do so unless he already had an agenda against Caucasian men. The fact that he later tells Chris to leave his wife out of their situation doesn't help matters. It's clear that he's really just projecting his own feelings and thoughts on Chris.
  • Internal Affairs: A surprisingly sympathetic and justified version. They're portrayed as firm but fair and they correctly call Abel out for his history of what is undoubtedly very questionable behavior going by his treatment of Damon Richards.
  • Ironic Echo: After a heated argument about the bushes on the property line that nearly devolved into violence and resulted in Chris storming off after he and Lisa yelled at one another, Chris goes to a dive bar to have a drink and cool off. By chance, it's the same bar Abel frequents when he wants a drink, and they have a frank conversation, where Abel reveals that his issues with Chris and Lisa's marriage stem from the fact that his own wife died while having and affair with her boss, a White man, with the heavy implication that she was running off with him. At the very end when Chris discovers that Abel ordered the break in in his house to scare him and Lisa away and the cops are called in because Chris is pointing a gun at Abel, and when the cops order Chris to drop his gun and Lisa pleads with him to comply, Abel mockingly tells Chris to "listen to your wife," which is when Chris remembers their conversation at the bar and asks Abel, "did you listen to your wife?" and ads that the reason his wife cheated on him with a White man is because Abel ignored and refused to listen to any of her issues at all, which is when Able becomes enraged, pulls out his own gun and gets shot by the other cops.
  • Irrational Hatred: As is always the case with racism. What exactly was Turner's endgame in forcing the Mattsons to move out? Was it supposed to somehow "Cosmic Retcon" his late wife's affair or stop all interracial romance?
  • It's All About Me: Given his so-called "justification" in harassing the neighbors and his general behavior to anyone who doesn't "listen" to him, it's clear Abel's motivations mainly concern desiring power and zero disrespect from what HE believes is wrong.
  • Jerk With A Heart Of Jerk: What Abel ultimately proves himself to be. His few moments where he demonstrates noble qualities are just excuses for his corrupt, abusive behavior.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Damon Richards is a complete and utter tool who neglects his family and is heavily implied to be physically abusive. He still had every right to file a lawsuit against Abel for police brutality.
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: Abel gets progressively more unhinged and rabid in his attempts to harass Chris and Lisa out of the neighborhood. Shining his security floodlights into their bedroom escalates into slashing their tires, forcing Chris to be sexually harassed by a stripper, sending an informant to trash the Mattson house and then murdering the informant to avoid getting himself incriminated.
  • Kick the Dog: Abel slapping his daughter.
  • 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.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: Abel LOVES this. When dealing with a situation he disapproves of, he will find ANY excuse to dare his opponent to try to fight him and take back control.
  • Maligned Mixed Marriage: Abel's harassment towards Chris and Lisa Mattson, played by Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington is based on his racist attitudes, and the fact that they're a mixed race couple.
  • Married to the Job: Part of why Abel is still a beat cop at his age; Abel's specific age is unknown but Samuel L. Jackson was 60 when the film was released. His much younger partner lampshades it.
  • Meaningful Name: Jackson's character Abel is no stranger to betrayal.
  • Misplaced Retribution: It never seems to occur to Abel to maybe attribute some of the blame to his wife too, rather than just solely her white boss, considering that he never disparages her in every scene where she's relevant. He even seems to imply that he believes that Lisa has been corrupted by Chris.
  • Never My Fault: Abel never even seems to consider at all that he is taking things the wrong way and just prefers to blame others for not respecting his power and "authority". It also doesn't help that his captain enables his behavior, going out of his way to brush off Internal Affairs.
  • Noble Demon: Abel's a thuggish brute who abuses his authority as a police officer but he does have some standards. He believes strongly in being a good parent and clearly worked hard to provide for his family. He also was right to be upset about Chris and Lisa having sex in their pool knowing children lived in the neighborhood even if he took things entirely too far.
  • Oh, Crap!: Several notable examples:
    • Damon Richards gets a massive one when Abel turns his own shotgun on him and cocks it as if he's about to shoot him.
    • Clarence gets one when he realizes Abel actually is about to shoot him.
    • Chris and Abel both get ones in the same scene when Chris discovers Clarence's phone: Chris realizes Abel was behind Clarence breaking into the Mattson house, and Abel realizes he's been implicated.
  • Police Are Useless: One has to wonder with even all Abel's friends standing with him, that the Mattsons don't at least TRY to go to the cops in person, especially if it's likely he has a history of unpleasant behavior on the job. Completely justified as accusing a longtime and respected cop like Abel will likely provoke him to encourage/manipulate his colleagues into taking his side. And it probably would be MUCH worse even if they succeeded in getting a case through.
  • Psychological Projection: An absolutely important trait of Abel that is revealed late in the film. He tells Chris that he believes that Caucasian men embrace taking anything they want for granted, but it's quite obvious that that's what Abel believes about himself. That could also explain his justification of his bitter feelings towards Chris in the sense on his late wife getting killed because she was cheating on him with her white boss.
  • Rabid Cop: Abel has 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.
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: Displayed in chilling fashion by an exchange between Lisa and Abel.
    Lisa: Get off of my property!
    Abel: Or what? You'll call the cops? Here. (Hands her a phone) I can tell you exactly who is on duty.
  • Scary Black Man: It's Samuel L. Jackson, what did you expect?
  • 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 Sociopath: Abel is definitely this. His first reaction to seeing Chris and Lisa skinny dipping is to cut the cord to their air conditioning. He also leaves clues as if to imply that he wants them to know he is responsible for their trouble, which is a classic trait of a Sociopath. Nor does he show any true remorse or guilt for his actions, and also has a hard time understanding a different moral perspective from his own. But his worst trait is his persistent hostility and TRULY aggressive side, which ultimately ends up getting himself killed. In all, it seems that his motives stem from nonconforming views regarding what he sees as unacceptable social standards getting in his way.
  • Stupid Crooks: As Abel is keen to point out, Clarence is a total idiot.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • Clarence, 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 would easily identifiable in spite of 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 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. Chris uses this to throw Abel off and get the latter gunned down. Not to mention when Chris found Clarence's cell phone and uses it to call the most recent number which is Abel, who didn't bother to check his caller ID and wonder why he would get a call from someone he shot earlier that day.
    • Not to mention his earlier decision to send Lisa a video of his buddies holding Chris down so a stripper can grind on him against his will. Nothing ends up coming of it and Abel ends up getting his comeuppance in a completely unrelated way, but sending video evidence of you committing sexual assault to the victim's spouse is unbelievably stupid, arrogant, or both.
  • Tragic Bigot: Abel Turner is a black police officer with a hatred for interracial couples because of something tragic from his past. His late wife was having an affair with her white boss, and they were both killed in a car crash as they were driving to the guy's home to have sex.
  • 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 Mattsons 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.
  • Ultimate Job Security: Downplayed. When Abel is being questioned by Internal Affairs agents, it's clear that he has a long history of very questionable behavior and it's catching up to him, as they make it clear they're pushing him towards "involuntary" retirement.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Of California police officer Irsie Henry's harassment of his neighbors John and Melanie Hamilton. Henry was eventually fired from the police force for his behavior.
  • Villain Has a Point:
    • While he goes the wrong way with taking matters into his own hands, Abel's annoyance about the Mattsons' careless behavior is quite reasonable. This includes things such as his kids witnessing Chris and Lisa making love in their swimming pool, Chris thoughtlessly littering cigarette butts onto his lawn, and hanging their trees over his property without his permission (all of these can can lead to possible legal action or circumstances as a case of being negligent towards somebody or their property, especially with the trees).
    • As well as his lingering anger at his wife, who repaid his working like a dog to give her a good life by cheating on him. Although given his authoritarian and controlling ways, it's probably what drove his wife to cheat on him.
    • He wasn't wrong to tell Damon Richards to stop whining about his situation and be good father to his baby. Though it's undercut by giving him a beatdown and threatening him with his own gun to the point of nearly assisting his suicide.
  • Villain Protagonist: The focus on the film is mainly about Abel himself, due to his actor getting the top billing.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Abel's kids are away visiting their aunt when the movie's final scene goes down. What happens when they come home and find out their father was shot to death by cops because he was trying to murder his neighbors? Although, given Abel's toxic, abusive ways, the cops might've actually done them a favor despite them now being orphans.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Chris gives Lisa a dose of this when he finds out that she stopped taking her birth control without telling him.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Abel's tragic backstory causing him to become a vile corrupt cop certainly qualifies him to be this. Well, Abel doesn't want to destroy the world, but just his neighbors.