Mark Reviews Movies

The Loft


1 ½ Stars (out of 4)

Director: Erik Van Looy

Cast: Karl Urban, James Marsden, Wentworth Miller, Eric Stonestreet, Matthias Schoenaerts, Rachael Taylor, Isabel Lucas, Rhona Mitra, Valerie Cruz, Kali Rocha, Elaine Cassidy, Margarita Levieva, Kristin Lehman, Robert Wisdom, Graham Beckel

MPAA Rating: R (for sexual content, nudity, bloody violence, language and some drug use)

Running Time: 1:48

Release Date: 1/30/15

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Review by Mark Dujsik | January 30, 2015

The Loft is a prime example of a movie that does not trust the rather elegant simplicity of its premise. There's an apartment with a dead body in it, and only five men have access to the space. It's not even rudimentary math, really: Five men equals five suspects. At least one of these men killed the woman whose body is handcuffed to a bed and lying in a pool of blood. That's where it does become a matter of basic math: Subtract the innocent men, and you're left with a murderer or two or three or however many of these guys committed the crime. It's so simple that it's rather shocking how many ways the movie tries to needlessly complicate the equation.

This is the second remake of a Belgian movie from 2008 (directed by Erik Van Looy, who also helms this one), which means at least a few people appreciate the material enough to determine that three iterations of it are worthwhile. Neither the original nor the 2010 remake from the Netherlands was released in the United States, so judging how this version compares to either of its predecessors doesn't figure here. What does matter is how ungainly the movie's structure is, how ridiculously convoluted its puzzle-box narrative is, and how nasty its view on human beings and especially women is.

As to first point, the screenplay by Wesley Strick (based on Bart De Pauw's script for the 2008 movie) starts at the end, flashes back to an earlier point in time, and then flashes farther back to the discovery of the body. Within the third retreat in time, there are additional flashbacks to events in the year leading up to the moment that Vincent (Karl Urban) walks into the loft apartment that he shares with four of his friends and discovers a bloody mess on the bed.

The five buddies are not roommates. As they start to flood into the apartment (each of them offering a look of shock upon seeing the dead woman that becomes unintentionally comical in the repetition), we learn that they have been renting the place as a secret rendezvous location for their extramarital affairs. In case the point isn't clear, the police also explain the arrangement while they interrogate the men in the movie's later timeline, and in case a second time isn't enough to understand the guys' plan, there's a flashback to the friends explaining how they could use the apartment to sleep with women other than their wives.

The other men are Chris (James Marsden), Luke (Wentworth Miller), Marty (Eric Stonestreet), and Philip (Matthias Schoenaerts). They're all in unhappy marriages to women who exist in the movie solely to give jealous looks (that are, as it turns out, more than earned), make suspicious accusations (that, again, are correct), turn vindictive, and otherwise—in the movie's mind—justify why these men would want to seek out other female companionship.

The mistresses turn out to be just as one-dimensionally antagonistic, with Anne (Rachael Taylor), the only woman who could make Chris stray (If it'll help him sleep at night, sure, that's the case), as a manipulative trigger of sorts. Also, there's the inescapable point of the dead woman (Isabel Lucas) who serves as a prop. She might as well be one in the flashbacks, too.

Yes, the men are worse. They objectify almost every woman they see, cheat on their wives, wreck their families (that remain strangely unseen, in something that inadvertently becomes running joke), backstab each other, and, in one scene, cover up a rape. If there's some critique of these characters and their behavior here, it's lost in the simple fact that the movie's sympathies are undeniably with them. The last insult is in how miniscule the consequences—for what turns out to be a murder conspiracy, mind you—are for the surviving characters.

All of this, though, isn't nearly as damning as the overabundance of ultimately pointless and redundant exposition. The movie's central conceit of five suspects in a confined space is intriguing enough on its own, and Van Looy (who, along with cinematographer Nicolas Karakatsanis, does amplify the sense of claustrophobia of the movie's central setting with some off-kilter close-ups) and Strick show admirable restraint in the scenes in the apartment. The characters explain just enough without weighing down or giving away the mystery.

It's when The Loft tries to expand its scope into the characters' lives, as it often does, that the movie feels more like it's distracting us than building its mystery. Also, there's the unavoidable issue that we quickly realize we want to spend as little time as possible with these characters.

Copyright © 2015 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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