Movie Review: The Loft
By Matthew Huntley
February 5, 2015
The Loft is a would-be exotic thriller that might have worked had the filmmakers known what type of movie they wanted to make: either a trashy guilty pleasure or a thoughtful, earnest parable that asks us to really consider the ramifications of the characters’ behavior. Unfortunately, they never really decide and as the movie struggles with the direction it should take, we lose interest in it.
In the film, five well-to-do men, each married and on the verge of middle age, decide to split a swanky, urban loft in a newly erected high-rise building. Their intent isn’t to live there, but rather, as Vincent (Karl Urban) says, make it their "own private oasis,” free of distraction and without any worries of things like messy hotel bills, credit card statements, etc. He’s of course implying the loft will serve primarily as their luxurious bachelor pad, where they can discreetly bring other women and cheat on their wives without getting caught. When one of the others says, “I’m not like that,” Vincent replies, “We’re men; we’re all a little like that.”
Vincent is the architect who designed the new building and after a (very) brief hesitation from his lascivious friends, he hands each of them one of five keys, which cannot be copied. Before long, Vincent and his pals - Chris (James Marsden), Luke (Wentworth Miller), Marty (Eric Stonestreet) and Philip (Matthias Schoenaerts) - start using their shared dwelling. The only rules are they can’t tell anyone else about it and each man must always let the others know when he’s using it (I would hope that washing the sheets afterward goes without saying).
Of course, there would be no movie if their scheme didn’t go awry. That happens when Luke shows up to the loft one night and discovers a woman’s dead body in the bed, covered in blood. He calls the others but none of them claim to know who she is or how she got there. She’s also lying face down, which means we never see her and this keeps us guessing her identity as the movie flashes back to a year ago when Vincent first suggested the loft idea. He and the others each tell their versions of the events leading up to this night to a couple detectives (Kristin Lehman and Robert Wisdom), who are looking to pin the woman’s death on Vincent. The other thing we’re trying to guess is which of the main characters has fallen out of the building in the movie’s opening scene. It’s just a shame that, by the end, we don’t really care.
One of the problems with The Loft is it deals us all these characters but none of them are particularly interesting or developed beyond the archetypes of your standard “circle of guy friends.” Vincent is the suave, egotistical leader, who cheats on his wife (Valerie Cruz) not because he’s particularly unhappy but simply because he can and wants to prove he can get away with something. Chris is a psychiatrist who’s smart, articulate and genuine, but he’s in a loveless marriage with Allison (Rhona Mitra), who’s chronically miserable, although the screenplay by Bart De Pauw and Wesley Strick never really takes the time to explain why this is (if it under-develops the husbands, it does so even more with their wives). We’re simply supposed to understand why Chris is drawn to Anne (Rachel Taylor), the sexy blonde he meets at the building’s opening reception.
Marty is the obnoxious, overweight binge drinker of the group who says things like, “If the women get any hotter in here, they’ll be in violation of the fire code.” Uh-huh. He’s married to the nagging Mimi (Ellie Seacord), and because neither one of them is very pleasant, we wonder why the others are friends with them in the first place.
Luke, unlike Marty, is cautious and sensitive. The movie obviously wants us to think he might be gay, but his psychosis is hardly explored outside of basic plot purposes. He’s married to Ellie (Elaine Cassidy), a diabetic and a bit of a basket case who fears Luke might leave her, which is why she tells him, “I want you to know I can take a lot,” almost preemptively forgiving him if decides to bed someone else.
And then there’s Philip, the cocaine-snorting hothead who’s the latest to join the marriage game, although it’s not clear why he and his new bride (Isabel Lucas) decided to marry, as they don’t seem to even love each other. She comes from a rich family while he comes from a broken one, making him economically reliant on his tycoon father-in-law (Graham Beckel), who’s your stock, all-powerful movie-father-in-law who believes nobody is good enough for his daughter.
All these characters eventually intertwine but as the plot progresses, and the mystery of the dead girl unravels, we realize the entire production is never going to add up to anything more than a mediocre soap opera, one that’s not terribly sexy, thrilling or surprising. Director Erik Von Looy, who also helmed the original Belgian film, employs the usual exposition and twists common to the genre to keep the audience up to speed and the story moving, but it all gets weighed down by the movie’s lack of a clear identity. It’s neither a sleazy example of self-indulgence nor a thoughtful exploration of these characters and their morals. In its attempt to be both, it ends up being nothing.