I recently ventured into the movie theater to see “Lakeview Terrace” and “Righteous Kill.”
The first film was good; the second sad, because it reminded of the glory days of its stars, Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino, which seem to be long-gone.
In “Lakeview Terrace,” the Neil LaBute-directed film starring Samuel Jackson, there is a nice switch. It’s not the rednecks that harass the African Americans, this time out. It’s Samuel Jackson, with an evil-eye look that would make Jack Nicholson proud, who is the policeman neighbor of a mixed-race couple, played by Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington. The couple, Chris and Lisa Mattson, move into Lakeview Terrace and instantly enrage their old-fashioned neighbor, who is not enlightened enough to accept a black woman married to a white man. Plus, Samuel Jackson’s character (Abel Turner) has two young children—a teen-aged daughter and her younger brother—and he rules their lives with an iron fist.
As the rage grows, so does a fire in the California Valley that moves inexorably towards the ritzy neighborhood. Interestingly enough, the neighborhood Lakeview Terrace was the area where, in real life, Rodney King’s beating took place. The movie’s climax is reached when Jackson’s character hires a thug to ransack the couple’s home while they are out, but the pregnant wife returns early and is put in jeopardy. Extreme measures must be taken, and they are. It’s a well-cast, observant, well-acted film.
The second film that I saw in theaters this week has 3 men who are well past retirement age supposedly still chasing the bad guys on the streets of New York. Robert DeNiro, as “Turk” and Al Pacino as “Rooster,” are, first of all, too old to be called either of these names, and too old for the stunts they are asked to perform. Brian Dennehy, as their boss, must be pushing 80. What police department in the country still has 70 to 80 year old officers patrolling the streets? Not any that I am familiar with.
The rap singer known as 50 Cent plays a drug dealer who has set up shop in a club inside a renovated bank. Curtis Jackson, or “Spider” as he is known in the film, told an amusing story on one of the late-night talk shows about how DeNiro really did kick him in a memorable scene. He also said that he didn’t need any acting lessons from DeNiro on how to act after being shot. This, of course, is because “50 Cent” was shot several times in real life and lived to tell about it.
The always-good John Leguizamo as Detective Simon Perez and Donnie Wahlberg as Detective Ted Riley are well cast. They are the right age and they seem believable as police officers. But no matter how many times they show an overweight DeNiro puffing away in a jogging suit or imply that he is porking a much-younger partner (Karen Corelli playing Carla Gugino), and no matter how many times Al Pacino pumps that iron, it just doesn’t wash. Surely there are roles these two could play that are commensurate with their age and station in life. Pacino has done Shakespeare. Maybe he could do the Merchant of Venice. What he can’t do any more is the policeman of New York, and it’s really sad to see “Serpico” looking wrinkled and old. The scenes shot in bright daylight are particularly merciless for both these aging leading men.
Even though there is an attempt at a “surprise” ending, I was most surprised that DeNiro and Pacino would try to re-enact roles that, as younger men, they pulled off with ease. Now, as aging lions of the cinema, they need to either lighten up (as DeNiro has done in numerous comedies like “Meet the Fokkers”) or, at the very least, play age-appropriate roles.