Writer/director Neil LaBute burst on to the scene with two dark movies that were excellent – In the Company of Men (Aaron Eckhard) and Your Friends and Neighbors (Ben Stiller). A few years ago, he gave us The Wicker Man, and now this — a story with such a good premise that he could’ve done wonderful things with it.
An interracial married couple (Patrick Wilson, Kerry Washington), move next door to a racist cop (Samuel L. Jackson). The set up is great, and the subtle anger Jackson displays is perfect. Even when he sees his daughter swimming at their house and hits her – we realize this is a guy that’s not playing with a full deck, but it’s very believable. When he lectures her on the bikini and starts to do a striptease for the neighbors – it’s shocking. This is one bizarre neighbor we’re going to have on our hands.
Why the movie didn’t stay that way is beyond me. The second half is such a mess it’ll sink the film for most people (it did for me). I had the same problems with Unlawful Entry (with Ray Liotta as the crazy cop) and Pacific Heights (Michael Keaton as the crazy tenant). They start with great premises and just became goofy, over-the-top action pictures with a crazy guy running amok.
Patrick Wilson was great in Little Children and Hard Candy, and he’s fine in his role. We’ve all had that loud neighbor we’ve had to deal with, and when Jackson throws loud parties or puts bright lights around his house, we can feel the neighbors pain.
Jackson is a widowed 20-year veteran of the LAPD. He doesn’t have the best track record with his bosses, so later in the movie when he becomes such a nutjob, you’re bothered the character was written that way. He’s surely a smart enough guy to keep from getting in such trouble merely because he doesn’t care for his new neighbors. And somebody please explain to me why we waste the talents of Jackson continually. It’s as if everybody just wants him to yell that he’s “tired of these m***** f****** snakes on this m***** f****** plane!” I’m surprised LaBute didn’t have him yell “I’m tired of these m*f* neighbors on my m*f*ing lawn!”
Early on, I didn’t mind how these characters were trying to deal with their problems. Washington thinks she can talk to Jackson, since they’re both black. Wilson is just on edge because he thinks he has to be because of societies view on interracial couples (note to his character: It’s Alabama in 1953). All these people quickly throw logic out the window and stop acting rational. Even when Wilson goes over during a loud party to try and talk to Jackson, you wonder why he thought that would be a good idea.
If LaBute wanted some social commentary in here, that’s fine. It just needed to be written in a much better way.
This movie would’ve been so much more interesting if Jackson just subtly bullied his neighbors, using the power of the badge. Instead, the movie rings false after the fist 40 minutes.
It was a pleasant surprise to see Robert Pine (Chris’ dad), the captain on CHiPs, playing a captain in this. It was a nice flashback to my childhood. Unfortunately, houses on fire, gun battles, police helicopters, and crazy villains – remind me of my childhood also. It was the only time I accepted garbage like this at the movies and considered it entertainment.
This gets a D+.