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Now and Then – Lakeview Terrace and Internal Affairs

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     Now: Lakeview Terrace (2008)
         Then: Internal Affairs(1990)
 
“What could be safer than living
next to a cop?”
“Trust him … he’s a cop.”

Lakeview Terrace puts a young married couple next door to Samuel Jackson’s old-school street cop, and we watch as the relationship between the neighbors builds from cold courtesy to heated hostility. With an ominous Jackson in his LAPD uniform, Lakeview Terrace brings to mind another thriller revolving around a policeman with a slightly skewed idea of what it means to “serve and protect,” 1990’s Internal Affairs , starring Richard Gere as a charming-yet-corrupt LAPD cop who Andy Garcia is trying to take down.

Showcase, Showoff
Both Lakeview Terrace and Internal Affairs feature seasoned actors as their leads — charismatic and manipulative charmers with blinding smiles designed to draw your attention away from the knife jammed in your back. Lakeview Terrace actually has the edge here; Jackson’s Abel Turner starts out as a complicated, but believable, human being who eventually crosses the line; Gere’s Dennis Peck begins over the line then heads even farther out as Garcia’s Internal Affairs cop tries to take him down. But in both cases, these are roles that let the two men sink their teeth in: Jackson and Gere may be movie stars, but they’re also real actors beneath the buzz, and they play their parts to the hilt.

Sex and Power

Lakeview Terrace and Internal Affairs get plenty of mileage out of the power police have — and how that power, if abused, can be a terrible weapon. Sex is tossed into the mix too: Jackson’s Turner has reasons for disliking the mixed-race couple who’ve moved in next door, while Gere’s Peck deliberately drives a wedge of jealousy between Garcia’s cop and his wife. Yet each lead actor puts a human face on their rogue cops; when someone at a party alleges that the LAPD can go over the line, Jackson suggests that if they’re ever in trouble, ” … we’ll see about sending the nice police to save you.” Gere gives a moving monologue about the fate he’s working to avoid: “How many cops you know, huh? Got nothing. Divorced, alcoholic, kids won’t talk to them anymore, can’t get it up…”

New Directions for Directors
Both Lakeview Terrace and Internal Affairs look like production-line thrillers, but they each have someone far better than you’d expect behind the camera. Lakeview Terrace‘s director, Neil LaBute, is best-known for his bleak, blunt indie dramas In the Company of Men and The Shape of Things ; Internal Affairs was directed by Mike Figgis, the British auteur who made a splash with the neo-noir Stormy Monday then gave us Leaving Las Vegas and the arty Timecode . Both directors are much better than their material, wringing unexpected twists out of what could have been by-the-numbers scripts.

The Verdict

With charismatic leads playing complicated parts, and unexpected directors in charge, both Lakeview Terrace and Internal Affairs work as smart thrillers with a lot more going on than first meets the eye. Neither of them is going to be remembered as great but they qualify as solid entertainment. And they’ll stick in your mind just enough so that the next time you see a set of sirens in your rearview mirror — you’ll probably flinch a little more than usual.

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