Lakeview Terrace (2008) - Plot Summary Poster


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  • Based on a true story, a troubled and racist African-American L.A.P.D. Officer will stop at nothing to force out a friendly interracial couple who just moved in next door to him.

  • In California, the Caucasian Chris Mattson and his African-American wife Lisa Mattson move to a house in a gated community. The racist and dysfunctional next-door neighbor is the abusive LAPD Officer Abel Turner who feels uncomfortable with the relationship of the newcomers and transforms their lives into Hell on Earth.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • In California, Abel Turner (Samuel L. Jackson) rises from his bed. A news report can be heard giving info about a huge wildfire burning somewhere in the state. Abel picks up a picture of himself and his black wife that's face down on a night table, looks at it, and leaves the room.

    At the kitchen table, Abel gives his son, Marcus (Jaishon Fisher), and daughter, Celia (Regine Nehy), a hard time for not living up to a couple of his many rules. Marcus and Celia leave for school. Outside, they notice the coming of new neighbors Chris Mattson (Patrick Wilson) and his wife Lisa (Kerry Washington), in addition to Lisa's father (Ron Glass). Abel spies on his new next-door neighbors, and while doing so, sees Chris, who is white, kissing Lisa, who is black. Abel is revolted. Later that night, Chris and Lisa awaken to Abel's house security light shining brightly into their bedroom.

    The next day, Abel, who is a police officer and his partner Javier (Jay Hernandez) question informant Clarence Darlington (Keith Loneker). Clarence gives the officers info, and he and Abel have a tiff regarding Clarence's supposed ancestry. Clarence tells Abel that he's messed up in the head.

    Chris pulls his car in front of his new house that night, jamming to rap music. While he relaxes, Abel knocks on his car window. Chris rolls down his window and a shadowy Abel puts a gun to his head, forcing him to give up his wallet. Abel tells Chris to never roll his window down in such an instance again, handing him back his wallet. The men converse for awhile. Abel tells Chris that no matter how much he listens to rap, in the end, he'll still be white.

    Chris parks the car, takes a final pull from a cigarette, and flicks it toward Abel's yard. Chris enters the backyard and finds Lisa in the swimming pool. He joins her, then they undress and make out. Next door, Abel and his children see this spectacle through a window. Abel is angered by this. Later, Chris and Lisa lie together in their bedroom and discuss the prospect of having a child. Chris believes that their air conditioning isn't working. The couple investigate in the backyard and discover that a cord in the A/C unit has been cut. They also find a burnt-out cigarette with a screw pushed through it, and then Abel's security light comes on.

    The next day, Chris questions Abel about his security light. Abel rebuffs him, mentioning the arroyo in their backyards where wayward kids sometimes stalk as his reason to keep the light on.

    Later in her house, Lisa sees a ball land in her swimming pool, then notices Marcus and Celia in the next-door yard. She tells them to get the ball. Lisa tells the kids that they can swim in the pool anytime they like as long as they ask their parents beforehand. Celia says that their mother died. Lisa tells them that Abel's authoritarian ways will improve, but Celia says they won't. Lisa invites the kids to her housewarming party.

    That evening, Chris visits Abel's house and asks him about the security light again; Abel says he wasn't able to turn it off. Chris and Abel take a walk around the neighborhood as part of Abel's watchman rounds. Chris tells Abel that he and Lisa plan to be in their new house for a few years. Abel says he's trying to raise his kids properly, stating that they saw the Mattsons making out in their swimming pool. Abel suggests that the Mattsons live some other place instead.

    Abel arrives at the Mattsons' party without Marcus and Celia. In the backyard, one of the Mattsons' friends asks Abel what he does for a living; he responds he's a cop. Abel mentions the cigarette butts that Chris flicks into his yard so Lisa won't see them. Lisa is surprised. One of her female friends voices a negative opinion about police and Abel confronts her. The girl's male friend mentions aggressiveness on the part of some police; Abel browbeats both of them. On Abel's way out, Chris accosts him about bringing up the cigarette butts. Abel is totally defiant and smiles wickedly at Chris. The security light comes on behind Abel, who goes home.

    Later that night, Chris and Lisa are awakened by the car alarm going off in their garage. They go to investigate it and find the garage door open and the car's tires slashed. Angrily, Chris rushes outside, hoping to catch the vandal, but finding no one. Next door, Abel talks to Chris and Lisa from his balcony, saying he heard some noises from their backyard. The police arrive and tell the Mattsons that there's not much they can do for them.

    Lisa and Chris have dinner with Lisa's father; Chris recounts his experiences with Abel thus far to him. Lisa's father suggests that they put their house back on the market. Lisa's father asks Chris how he expects to protect the children he plans to have with Lisa. Chris sarcastically says he's going to build an arsenal.

    Chris buys a security light for his house and positions it so that it will shine at nights directly into Abel's bedroom. The wildfire closes on the Mattsons' neighborhood, its smoke visible from their balcony. That night, an uneasy Abel, trying to sleep, wakes up and stares toward Chris' light that is glaring at him through his window blinds.

    The following day, Abel and his partner Javier answer a call, driving to an apartment building with people waiting in front of it. They're told a man has his wife and daughter in his apartment, may have a gun, and says he's going to kill them both. The two cops approach the apartment that yelling can be heard from. Abel knocks on the door and tries to talk to Damon Richards (Caleeb Pinkett), the man inside the place, but Damon blasts a large hole in the door, narrowly missing Abel. Damon escapes through a window. Abel pursues Damon, who shoots at him again with a shotgun, missing him.

    Cornered at a gate, Damon points the shotgun under his own chin, threatening suicide. Abel steps closer to him, telling him to calm down, then grabs Damon's gun and cocks it. Abel tells Damon to kill himself, grabs the shotgun, and hits him in the chest with it. Abel asks Damon if this is going to happen again and tells him to take responsibility for his child. Javier steps up behind Abel, who tells him to cuff Damon.

    As Lisa works at her computer, she hears Celia in her backyard, swimming in the pool. Lisa says to Celia that it's okay to swim there if her father said so; Lisa thinks that he didn't. Celia gets out of the pool and she and Lisa talk. Celia asks Lisa how much she should like a white guy if he's going to be her boyfriend. Lisa says she should like him a lot, especially if he's to be her boyfriend. Celia starts dancing in her two-piece swimsuit to the song playing on Lisa's sound system. Abel motors his vehicle into his driveway, and, hearing the two womens' talk, enters Lisa's backyard.

    Abel surprises the two women, asking Celia if he gave her permission to come to the Mattsons' house. Celia says no. Lisa and Abel start bickering. Celia talks back to Abel, ridiculing him, and he slaps her in the face. Celia runs out of the yard. Lisa tells Abel to leave her property and he responds, "Or what?" Abel leaves a distressed Lisa alone, who goes inside the house and vomits into her kitchen sink.

    Later that evening, Chris and Lisa sit in the backyard together. Chris notes that Abel doesn't have his security light on. Lisa suggests that they put their house back on the market. Chris asks her if she wants to sell the place, mentioning Abel and her father as people who might try to decide it for them. Lisa gets offended, but kisses him. Abel watches her leave Chris alone from his property, smiling.

    Marcus and Celia leave with their Aunt Dorrie for a two-week stay with her.

    Lisa breaks the surprise news to Chris that she's pregnant. He asks her about her birth control pills and she says that she missed a few days. Chris is very unnerved by this seemingly deliberate inaction on Lisa's part and they have an argument.

    Abel is told by a superior officer to take time off from his job due to a suit against the department brought by Damon Richards. An investigator working for internal affairs mentions that Abel has a number of "question marks" on his record.

    Outside, Abel runs into a group of cops talking and laughing. They mention that they're throwing a bachelor party for one of their cop buddies. Abel tells them to bring it to his house, saying his kids are gone and they can party all night there.

    At about 3:00 the next morning, Chris lies awake in bed next to Lisa, hearing loud music from next door. Chris gets up, goes to the bathroom, and inspects Lisa's birth control pills. Lisa is awakened by the music. She heads off to tell Abel to turn the music down. Chris stops her, telling her that he'll handle it. Chris gets rebuffed by the cops at Abel's front door; he enters the house through its back side. Inside, Abel tells Chris that they can make peace over drinks. Abel makes jokes about Chris to his face, then guides him to a room where female strippers are dancing. One of the strippers leads the fatigued Chris to the room's center where she dances against him. A cop records this with a camera. Chris tries to leave, but two cops throw him to the floor and hold him down while the stripper dances over him. Abel makes a rude comment about Lisa and Chris charges at him; Chris is stopped and forced out of the house.

    When Chris gets home, he searches for his camcorder to record what Abel is doing. Lisa questions him and he tells her that she didn't forget to take her birth control pills. He tells Lisa that he doesn't know who she is anymore.

    Lisa gets her mail from her mailbox while Abel works on his car next door. She finds a DVD in the mail. Lisa plays it and is surprised to see footage of Chris getting danced over by the stripper at Abel's party. Lisa steps outside and glares at Abel.

    Chris has numerous trees planted along the gate dividing the Mattsons' property from Abel's yard. Chris and Lisa sit in their yard, talking about their problems when they hear the sound of an electric tool nearby. They go to investigate it and see Abel cutting down their new trees. Abel says the Mattsons didn't ask his permission to plant the trees -- but since they're hanging onto his property he can cut them down without their permission. Abel and Chris get into an aggressive spat across the fence. An upset Lisa runs off and Chris follows her.

    Chris sits at a bar, drinking a drink and watching television footage of the nearby wildfire as Abel comes in, sitting next to him. Abel explains that the barmaid has a gun hidden behind the bar so there shouldn't be any trouble between them. Abel says he's had a bad day and encourages Chris to stay awhile, buying him another drink. Abel says today is the third anniversary of his wife's death. He explains that his wife had become a home-care aide for mostly sick people. Abel says that three years ago, he got a phone call saying his wife was in a head-on collision in a car; she died later on a gurney because the hospital workers treated her based on her race. Abel wonders aloud what his wife was doing with her employer, a white male, on the freeway when she should've been at work. Chris asks what this has to do with him. Abel says nothing, except that Chris and Lisa moved to the wrong place at the wrong time. Abel yells that white males think they can take "whatever" they want and he detests it. Chris tells him, "f--- you," then walks off, saying he and Lisa aren't moving.

    There are now multiple wildfires advancing closer to Abel and the Mattsons' area. Abel coerces Clarence to break into Chris and Lisa's house while they're away at a nearby party, and vandalize their belongings. Lisa returns home early, catching Clarence off-guard. Lisa sets off the alarm, prompting Chris (and Abel, who's trying to keep from getting discovered) to run from the party to the Mattsons' house. Clarence picks Lisa up and throws her to the floor, knocking her unconscious. Moments later, Abel shoots Clarence dead in the Mattsons' backyard. Abel looks around the body for Clarence's cell phone that was used to call him, but cannot find it.

    Chris and Lisa talk in the hospital; she and their unborn baby are okay. Meanwhile, Abel stares from his house at the police investigation going on at the Mattsons' residence. The wildfire is so close that people in the area are being asked to evacuate it. After the police leave, Abel goes into the Mattsons' house and calls Clarence's phone with his cell phone, hoping to find it. He's halted by the Mattsons' arrival and exits. Chris thanks Abel for putting down Clarence, saying he'll vouch for Abel if it's needed. Chris finds Clarence's cell phone by a bed, and calls the last number that was called on it. Next door, Abel answers the call. Realizing he's caught, Abel pulls out his gun with Chris watching him through a window, and stalks into the Mattsons' house. Chris surprises Abel and beats him down. Chris hands Clarence's cell phone to Lisa and tells her to go to the police, saying that Abel had Clarence break into their house. Lisa drives off to do as she's told, but Abel gets outside and shoots her car, causing her to have a crash. Chris tackles Abel and pounds on him some more, taking his gun away from him.

    Chris, carrying Abel's gun, gets to the car as Abel fires at it with a second handgun. Chris points Abel's gun at him as he approaches Chris and Lisa, who is still inside of the car. As the police drive up behind Chris, Abel hides his handgun behind his back. The police, Lisa and Abel all tell Chris to put down Abel's gun. In desperation, Chris yells at Abel about his dead wife, whom Abel suspects had cheated on him with her white boss. Abel snaps, shooting Chris in the shoulder and the police shoot Abel dead. In an ambulance, Lisa comforts Chris, who says they're going to have a family.

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