“Enough is enough! I have had it with these mother f$#%ing snakes on this mother f$#%ing plane!”
Yeah, I know… wrong Samuel L. Jackson movie, but I’ve always wanted to kick off a review with my favorite movie quote, and since I can’t see ‘Snakes on a Plane’ receiving the high-definition treatment anytime soon, I saw this as a fitting alternative. Why you may ask? Well, because the infamous passage more or less sums up the plot for Jackson’s 2008 thriller--‘Lakeview Terrace.’ Just swap “snakes” for “neighbors” and “plane” with “cul-de-sac.”
Young newlyweds Chris Mattson (Patrick Wilson) and his wife Lisa (Kerry Washington) have just purchased their dream house… or so they thought. Living next door is the moody Abel Turner (Jackson)--a single parent and officer within the LAPD. Abel believes he is a good cop and father, but ever since a tragic event in his life he’s grown one huge chip on his shoulder. Obviously, building friendships is an uphill battle for the man to begin with, but the Mattsons never had a fighting chance. You see, Lisa is African American and Chris is white--and their interracial relationship makes Abel’s blood boil.
Matters complicate further as everything Chris does -- from listening to rap music to disposing his cigarette butts in Abel’s bushes -- completely rubs Abel the wrong way. And as the self-appointed protector of the neighborhood, Abel’s Alpha male instinct kicks in full tilt to show his new neighbors who truly rules the roost. The quickest way to send them packing is to make their lives a living hell, but when Chris and Lisa have had enough of Abel’s harassing behavior and decide to fight back, things become even less neighborly on both sides of the fence.
One of the reasons I liked ‘Lakeview Terrace’ was that it caught me off guard. From what I had read and heard about the film, I was expecting a movie similar to ‘Unlawful Entry’ with higher levels of intensity. What we get in its place is more subtle suspense, a slighty uncomfortable feeling, like a tiny pebble in your shoe. It may not be noticeable at first, but before long there’s a constant lingering sense of uneasiness as we sit back waiting to see what Abel is going to do next.
This my friends, leads us to the brilliant performance by Jackson, who settles into the role of Abel with an iron-fisted smiting ferocity, not only commandeering the script but stealing the show. This was one case where Jackson had the means to fully embrace the loud-mouthed, preachy character he plays so well, and he does, but he also tones it down enough to stay firmly anchored in reality. He just hits all the right notes, and I have no doubt that without Jackson lighting up the screen with his electric personality, the movie wouldn’t have been the same.
Despite finding ‘Lakeview Terrace’ to be a wild ride and Jackson at the top of his game, the biggest flaw is the final climax. I wouldn’t necessarily say it was a bad ending per se, but I will say it was moderately disappointing. I thought it wrapped up a bit too safe and predictable for my liking, and I would have preferred a more thought-provoking conclusion.
Sony delivers a near-reference quality 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode (2.40:1 aspect ratio) that is clean, colorful, and a pleasure to behold on Blu-ray. The film’s vibrant and summery color palette boasts warm reds, lush greens, and cool pale blues. Black levels are among the strongest I’ve seen and remain deep and inky from start to finish. Skin textures are realistic and highly detailed, and I thought I could make out a missed rogue hair on Jackson’s shaved head as he sat down for breakfast with his kids. The print is also free of any blemishes or banding.
It’s really hard to pick apart this gorgeous transfer, but if I had to go over it with a fine-toothed comb, There is some very minor edge enhancement as well as a slight softness in the scenes where you could see the approaching forest fires in the background, and I also detected a hint of noise lasting only for a few moments in one night shot. Still, the picture looks better than 90% of the Blu-rays currently out on the market.
‘Lakeview Terrace’ features a lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track in English, French, and Portuguese that isn’t as robust as some soundtracks from Sony, but it still manages to step up to the plate and do its job quite nicely.
For starters, the dialogue comes through clear for the most part, although there were a few times near the end where certain voices tended to get lost in the shuffle. Bass isn’t overly active, however the thumping beat of the hip-hop music playing on Chris’ car stereo practically puts you right in the passenger seat. Surrounds become more distinguishable during the downtown Los Angeles scenes where noisy traffic and helicopter rotors make a solid impression, but even subtle surround effects of crickets and birds chirping in the quieter suburbs also provide a nice rear-channel ambience.
Other audio options include Dolby Digital 5.1 in Spanish and Thai. Like most Sony releases, the disc has an assortment of optional subtitles in English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese (simplified), Chinese (traditional), Korean, Thai, and Indonesian.
The Blu-ray edition of ‘Lakeview Terrace’ contains all the same bonus features found on the standard edition DVD.
Even though the ending fizzles, ‘Lakeview Terrace’ is a decent thriller, albeit one that clearly rides the coattails of Samuel L. Jackson all the way to the bank. Take him out of the equation, and you’d be completely expunging the heart and soul of the picture. The bonus features are the same slim pickings found on the DVD, but at least the Blu-ray delivers the goods in the audio and video departments. All things considered, ‘Lakeview Terrace’ is easily a rental, and even worth a purchase if the price is right.