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Surburban thriller is a mixed bag

PUBLISHED: 14:55 01 April 2009 | UPDATED: 17:10 16 August 2010

SAMUEL L Jackson stars as a hate-filled widower in this patchy but effective race drama. The marriage of a good-looking interracial couple Chris and Lisa Mattson (Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington) comes under strain when they move in next door to Abel

SAMUEL L Jackson stars as a hate-filled widower in this patchy but effective race drama.

The marriage of a good-looking interracial couple Chris and Lisa Mattson (Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington) comes under strain when they move in next door to Abel Turneer (Jackson), a hardboiled black LA cop.

It soon becomes clear that Turner disapproves of mixed race relationships and he isn't shy about letting his new neighbours know how he feels. He starts off throwing them piercing looks from his side of the fence but his hostility soon escalates into something altogether more dangerous and sinister.

As is perhaps to be expected, the film is propelled by Jackson's powerful presence. He plays Turner with his trademark blend of great vengeance and furious anger and is largely responsible for making the whole set-up seem believable. The two young leads also turn in excellent performances, although it would have been nice to see Washington's role given a bit more meat.

During the first half of the film the tension builds almost frustratingly slowly as the audience is constantly kept guessing when Turner will finally blow his top.

The film then loses its momentum as it starts to rely more and more on predictable genre devices and the tension is somewhat lost. Director Neil Labute plays the black/white wordplay for all it is worth and, while it works well in some cases, it soon becomes pretty tiresome. The film's main problem is that it tries too hard to be part suburban horror and part social commentary and ends up being neither.

Lakeview Terrace is released on DVD tomorrow (Apr 3).

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