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Wed September 17, 2008
Incendiary . . .
By John DeSando, WCBE's It's Movie Time
"Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can." Abraham Lincoln
Barack Obama has helped reveal the hitherto hidden racist attitudes among blacks and whites. In Lakeview Terrace, Samuel L. Jackson, as a black cop living next to mixed-race newlyweds, also confronts the audience with the lingering prejudices thought to have vanished with the civil rights chaos almost half a century ago.
This film devolves into an over-the-top urban terrorism denouement where it had been a startlingly effective polemic on racism, this time a black man towards whites where usually "crackers" are the central casting bad guy bigots. In this upscale Southern California neighborhood, Chris Mattson (Patrick Wilson) and his black wife, Lisa (Kerry Washington), move in to the chagrin of next-door neighbor Abel Turner (Jackson). The irony that he makes them unwelcome and unsafe, when having a police officer next door would usually be comforting, is not lost in the film's trailer and the plot itself.
The first two-thirds of the film are a successful, albeit cinematic, exploration of black attitudes toward black women with white men. As a film critic, I am frequently accompanied by my smart and beautiful black editor. I had not thought up to now that some black males would be offended, notwithstanding their usual acceptance of black males with white females. So irony prevails, and the film plays the discontent well, right down to the obvious wild-fire motif paralleling the increasingly incendiary neighborhood relations.
Lakeview Terrace showcases the considerable charisma of Jackson, who stretched his repertoire as a degenerated boxer in Resurrecting the Champ. His towering physical presence and highly-developed sarcasm are appropriate vehicles for the ongoing evolution of race relations.
"The greater part of what my neighbors call good I believe in my soul to be bad, and if I repent of anything, it is very likely to be my good behavior. What demon possessed me that I behaved so well?" Thoreau
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE 90.5's It's Movie Time, which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org Fridays at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm and on demand anytime. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com