(In theaters, October 2008) I’m generally not fond of comedies of humiliation, nor of its darker thrillers of exasperation. And this story pushes several of my annoyance buttons: cheap interracial tensions, cartoonish neighbors from hell, obvious dramatic arc and a director with a history for uncomfortable films. So I was surprised to find out that Lakeview Terrace wasn’t quite as grating as I thought: While the well-worn plot holds little surprise as soon as the first five minutes are over (neighborhood tension, escalating all the way to… well, you know), the last act of the film has a few manipulative surprises in store, and Samuel L. Jackson’s antagonist remains as compelling as despicable. It’s too bad that the protagonist is written as a nebbish decent guy: it’s tough to identify with his passivity or his easily-avoidable bad moves. Thriller fans will find a further point of interest in noticing how Jackson’s character, a perfect action protagonist in other contexts, is here portrayed as a man incapable of living in civilized society: now that’s some meta-contextual grist for action cinema critics. As for Lakeview Terrace itself, it’s unnerving, not as surprising as it could have been, but basically a competent thriller if you can make it through an hour of predictable rising tension.