Neil LaBute's Lakeview Terrace starts out strong by heightening a sort of tension we're all familiar with: the racism virtually everyone can cop to but will never discuss in polite, progressive society.

Lakeview Terrace, Neil LaBute's shot at redemption after the Wicker Man remake, starts out strong by heightening a sort of tension we're all familiar with, and one that's very relevant with the coming election: the racism virtually everyone can cop to but will never discuss in polite, progressive society.

It practically sweats out of veteran cop Abel Turner (Samuel L. Jackson, chomping into his part) when he realizes that the white guy unloading boxes at the house next door isn't the mover, but one half of an interracial couple moving in.

It doesn't take long for Chris (Patrick Wilson) to pick up Abel's disapproving vibe; a little longer for his wife Lisa (Kerry Washington), who thinks Chris is being too sensitive.

"Lakeview Terrace"

Opens Friday

Grade: C

For the sake of the nail-biting atmospherics LaBute conjures early on, some inflation of the reality-based issues at play is expected (Abel's got personal reasons for his prejudice; Chris isn't just white, he went to college on a lacrosse scholarship). But as the film progresses, archetypes weigh heavier, events grow more preposterous and a brushfire encroaching on the story's neighborhood rages ever bigger and closer. If only ridiculously obvious symbolism were a flame retardant.