Reviewer's grade: B-
"Lakeview Terrace" is just good enough to be disappointing because it isn't better. It makes your socks slide down your ankles, but it doesn't knock them off.
Samuel L. Jackson stars as Abel Turner, a 28-year veteran of the LAPD whose career, personal life, and psyche are beginning to fray around the edges. Abel gets off on the wrong foot with his new neighbor, Chris Mattson whose new bride, Lisa, is black " an racially-mixed arrangement that offends the cop. Everything Chris (Patrick Wilson) and Lisa (Kerry Washington) do annoys Turner, but he's no wallflower himself. He makes sure his night security lights shine directly in their bedroom window. He won't allow them to plant trees that will shield their property from his spying. When Turner catches his daughter swimming in the new neighbor's pool, he goes eerily off the rails and strips down to his skivvies to embarrass her for her choice in swimwear.
The impending inferno is too obvious a metaphor for the passion and madness that are enveloping the characters, but it does suggest that either Turner or Chris might resort to arson to bring this war of wills to a close. The movie belongs to the star whose name is above the title. We've seen Jackson be so good for so long now, we sometimes take him for granted. He is so often the only good thing about the movie's he's in, it's fun to watch him when he really allows himself to cut loose.
Turner is one bad dude, but his nastiness is so disguised early on by a big smile you tend to forget that's the same kind of smile a coyote would wear while eating a kitten. And no one can do the menacing smile like Sam Jackson. PG-13