Don’t Visit This Loft for a Good Time
Review by Daniel Rester
The Loft is a film about five male friends who share a secret penthouse where they can go to in order to cheat on their wives. Then things go wrong and a dead woman ends up in the loft. But how did she get there, and who killed her?
Karl Urban stars as Vincent, the “leader” of the pack – and an architect – who distributes the loft keys to his buddies. Then we get James Marsden as Chris and Wentworth Miller as Luke, who are more of the straight arrows of the bunch – though Chris eventually falls for a prostitute named Anne (Rachael Taylor). Matthias Schoenaerts and Eric Stonestreet round out the bunch as an aggressive guy named Philip and comic relief Marty, respectively.
Written by Bart De Pauw and Wesley Strick and directed by Erik Van Looy, The Loft is a remake of De Pauw and Van Looy’s own 2008 Belgian film Loft. While I can’t judge the 2008 film because I haven’t seen it, this Loft contains material that Alfred Hitchcock would have spun something brilliant out of. But Van Looy isn’t Hitchcock, and The Loft is far from brilliant.
Van Looy’s film lacks any sort of real excitement or playfulness, instead giving us a dirty and stupid film with five guys who aren’t quite believable as a group of friends. The actors do try, but the dialogue lets them down often by leaning on unbelievable or exposition-heavy lines. Schoenaerts registers with a strong performance, but the other males only come up okay at best. But how much can you do when there isn’t anything likable about the characters? The female actors have it even worse, with every one of them getting to play one note as an angry wife, sad prostitute, etc.
De Pauw’s script does include a few surprising and intriguing turns, but it falls back on flashbacks – including a ridiculous subplot involving San Diego – far too often in order to set them up. The movie is also framed by having the five guys being interrogated separately by the police. Between the back-and-forth solving of the murder mystery, the flashbacks, and the interrogations, the film has a constant flow – and remains easy to follow — but it winds up feeling messy in the end.
The Loft benefits from a professional look and a few striking moments that work well. Cinematographer Nicolas Karakatsanis uses a lot of blue-tone and grim-looking images. Many of his wide shots are impressive, including a certain one involving a pool. There are some occasional frames which seem unfocused, though, and the interrogation scenes are shot in an aggravating way – with extreme close-ups and a (constant) rotating 180 trick.
To make material like this work, the dislikable characters need to have at least a couple of likeable beats to play (Stonestreet tries this but fails), not to mention complexity or intelligence. Instead we are given cold but non-frightening guys who fall back on repeated emotions. The Loft is made watchable by its trying-to-make-the-film-better-than-it-is cast and some slick camerawork. But this is a thriller best left as a cable watch or totally unseen.
My Score: 2 out of 4 stars (Grade Equivalent for Me: C).
MPAA Rating: R (for sexual content, nudity, bloody violence, language and some drug use).
Runtime: 1 hour and 48 minutes.
U.S. Release Date: January 30th, 2014.