2015, R, 108 mins.
2015, R, 108 mins.
Karl Urban as Vincent / James Marsden as Chris Vanowen / Wentworth Miller as Luke Seacord / Matthias Schoenaerts as Filip / Eric Stonestreet as Marty Landry
Directed by Erik Van Looy / Written by Wesley Strick
THE LOFT commits multiple cinematic sins.
It’s an erotic mystery thriller that’s not sensual, nor particularly suspenseful or enthralling as a who-dunnit. Worse yet, it seems positively unnecessary, seeing as director Erik Van Looy already made this film in 2008 in a Dutch-language version.
Van Looy has made a film that aesthetically looks slick and atmospheric,
not to mention that he has gathered together a terrific star-studded
ensemble cast of talented actors that any film would be proud to have on
board. Regrettably, the fine
actors here are all, more or less, playing characters without much rooting
interest; nearly everyone that populates THE LOFT is either shady,
duplicitous minded, pure evil, or an eerie combination of the three.
In the end, I simply didn’t care for anyone in this film and the
dicey moral predicaments they became embroiled in.
As a result, THE LOFT feels woefully shallow.
The film – with a credited adapted screenplay to Wesley Strick – also feels manipulative and a bit too mechanically engineered for its own good. It rarely leaves you guessing like its more competent genre entries and it definitely thinks that it’s slyer and more intelligent than it actually is on paper. The aforementioned loathsome characters in the story are five friends – architect Vincent (Karl Urban), psychiatrist Chris (James Masden), hothead Marty (Eric Stonestreet), quiet mannered Luke (Wentworth Miller) and the unhinged Phillip (Matthias Schoenaerts) – are all in marriages that, through reasons never fully explored, seem to be boring them. They universally decide that the best way to quench their marital boredom and monotony is to purchase a lavish and spacious loft apartment (that Vincent has designed) in order for them to each have their way with their respective mistresses whenever they see fit.
I said these guys were loathsome.
course, some of the men fear the obvious repercussions of getting caught
by their significant others, but the sinful allure of having consequence
free sex in private quarters is too difficult for all of them to resist.
They all decide on some basic ground rules to ensure that their
wives are none the wiser to their extracurricular sextivities.
They all have a key and there’s only one way in or out of the
loft, meaning that if one makes a mistake on his watch and/or
turn…it’s on them. Everything
seems to be going smoothly for the men…that is until Luke comes to the
loft one day to find the dead body of a young woman, handcuffed to the
post and covered in blood. Panic
stricken and unsure of what to do, Luke calls Vincent, but within no time
all of the men show up on scene to survey the damage.
Now, since no one else has a key to the loft outside of their
tightly knit party, the men quickly deduce that one of them is the guilty
party for being this girl’s killer.
LOFT begins rather compellingly, but then it very quickly devolves into a
narrative riddled with flashbacks, flashforwards back to the present, only
followed by more flashbacks and flashforwards to the point of making the
whole plot feel overly convoluted and confused.
Overall, Strick’s script goes through many predicable and
conventional genre beats – the early suspicions and denials driven by
misunderstandings, mistrust, and angry debates regarding the loyalty of
everyone – but this type of scripting is only intoxicating when it
contains characters we give a damn about.
There’s no real tangible emotional attachment that the audience
can legitimately form with any of these cretins.
It’s one thing for characters to be underdeveloped and cut from
the same clichéd clothe, but it’s a whole other matter when they’re
all essentially sleaze balls that don’t deserve our sympathy in any real respect. The deeply
misogynistic undertone of THE LOFT is not assisted by the fact that all of
the women characters presented within are less flesh and blood personas
and are more sexually desirable trophies to be conquered.
backwards-minded attitudes towards its women characters notwithstanding,
THE LOFT doesn’t really have anything truly compelling to say about male
psychology either. There could have been at least half-assed attempts here to
dig deep into these deeply neurotic and deeply unsavory personalities,
but the script lacks confidence in execution to the point where the fine
actors are left with roles that feel kind of feebly cobbled together.
Any desire to dive into their respective back-stories – which
could tip off their potential guilt or innocence – is superfluous at
best. There’s also very
little, if any, bromantic chemistry between all of the performers as a
whole. The only things that
most of them share in common are their shared desire to have sex with
women outside of marriage…and to not get caught.
Even in would-be dynamic confrontations between various characters
accusing each other of culpability, THE LOFT barely has a pulse of interest
or intrigue. Karl Urban, for
example, is a likeable and charismatic on-screen presence, but here he
comes off as a victim of shoddy screenplay maneuvering.
We rarely get an impression of what makes this guy – or any of
the other guys in his posse – tick.
Then , of course, there’s the whole question of this film existing in the first place. Was there a justifiable reason for THE LOFT to be remade with an American cast by the same director as its predecessor? Was there a hunger for this material to be revisited again? Having never seen the Dutch original, commenting on this question any further is difficult. There are kernels on compelling material here in some dosages, but it nevertheless left me longing for what a real maestro of scripting and dialogue could have done with it (imagine what a Quentin Tarrantino – a man that lives to make undesirable men come desirably alive – could have done with this talk-heavy and stage play centric film). The dialogue elicited here is so paper-thin and on-the-nose that you almost want to laugh at it out of pity. The manner that everything coalesces towards its "shocking" conclusion left me yawning and checking for my watch for the time, neither of which are good signs during an murder mystery thriller.
One last comment: Hollywood seems to be having a rather difficult time with erotic thrillers as of late. FIFTY SHADES OF GREY was abysmally awful earlier this year, followed by the criminally terrible Jennifer Lopez stinkfest that was THE BOY NEXT DOOR. THE LOFT carries the on dubious 2015 tradition of would-be kinky and illicitly sensationalistic genre films that utterly fail at teasing and titillating audiences. Why has sex become so unrelentingly tedious in the movies?