Jackson's a stalwart neighbourhood watchman and LAPD officer, whose ultra-ordered world is upended by the arrival of a mixed race couple next door. Repelled by their free-living (read normal) ways, Jackson turns his security lights full in their face, literally.
But his fascist facedown spins steadily out of control when the newly-wed Mattsons turn the tables. Unused to resistance, Jackson’s scary antics get more and more serious. But who you gonna call when your nasty neighbour’s a cop?
Piling on the primal tension, director Neil LaBute treads the same family-versus-psycho water as Dead Calm and Cape Fear. But despite its title, Lakeview Terrace is decidedly land-based - although its the Mattsons' late-night pool-side love-in that tips Jackson overboard.
Lakeview's visceral intensity can't fail to draw you in. Pretty much plotless, it stands or falls on the playing of its cast and our reaction to Jackson's menacing ways. Cleverly conceived as a date movie, its couple-in-peril premise is calculated to get the audience thinking 'what would we do?’.
Blokes will shift in their seats as Mattson’s unmanned by Jackson's masculinity. But they'll cheer when he cracks and decides to kick back. In that sense, Lakeview’s also a western, like Shane or Clint’s remake Pale Rider – homesteaders cowed by menacing men: but here the cowboy who fights back isn’t Alan Ladd or Clint’s preacher, it’s the cowboy within who finally straps on his sixgun-psychology to protect his home.
As a riff on the reality of LA's racial tensions, it's less successful. As the LA riots get closer to Lakeview’s leafy terrace, it’s more symbolic of the film’s impending showdown than of society on fire. Lakeview’s no cousin to the LA-set Crash, Training Day or Dark Blue. But it’s an enjoyably efficient thriller.