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THE LOFT (2015) review

February 8, 2015

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written by: Bart De Pouw & Wesley Strick
produced by: Hilde De Laere, Matt DeRoss, Steve Golin, Paul Green, Adam Shulman
directed by: Erik Van Looy
rating: R (for sexual content, nudity, bloody violence, language, and some drug use)
runtime: 108 min.
U.S. release date: January 30, 2015 (wide)

 

“You’re not thinking of doing something stupid, are you?”

Every January I get suckered into thinking that a movie’s going to somehow rise above the odds and be halfway decent. Every January brings the promise of a talented director working with a solid cast on something that looks like it could be a worthwhile endeavor, and it almost never works out that way. Two years ago, it was “Broken City“, last year it was “Labor Day“, and this year, “The Loft” seemed to fit nicely into that niche.

This is the second remake of the 2008 Belgian film “Loft” – following a 2010 Dutch remake – and is scripted and directed by the same men who made that 2008 original, with a translation assist from “Cape Fear” remake scribe Wesley Strick. Having not seen either of the first two passes at this film, I went in cold, hoping for the best from a decent cast, and frankly, I should have known better.

 

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A more appropriate title for this film would have been “Cheating Hunks, because that’s about all anyone should expect from this trash. The film projects its actions and motivations so far in advance that it ends up having to compensate for such shallow characterizations with a multitude of twists, and becomes hopelessly convoluted. The basic gist of the film is this: Head Hunk Vincent (Karl Urban) is a shady real estate agent with equally shady friends: Nerdy Hunk Luke (Wentworth Miller), Generic Hunk Chris (James Marsden), Chubby Hunk Marty (Eric Stonestreet), and Vaguely Foreign Hunk Philip (Matthias Schoenaerts). Head Hunk gets turned on to an unfinished loft space in a swanky downtown apartment building, and decides to fix it up for him and his other creepy friends to use as a place to bring their various sexual conquests to, away from the prying eyes of their wives and girlfriends.

Here they let the good times roll, until Nerdy Hunk finds a dead woman in the apartment, and all of the hunks turn on each other, trying to figure out who knew her, who knew about the loft, and perhaps, who knows what in the actual hell is going on in this movie. The reason the film is such a mess is that not only are none of these hunks who the others think they are, none of the interchangeable women in their lives are either. The film has all the depth of a really bad episode of “Scooby-Doo”, but at least with “Scooby-Doo” you could figure out motives. The film plays out like the fourth season of some low-rent cable television series that you’ve decided to pick up on a whim, and becomes so confusing that you just kind of check out by the time seemingly everyone pulls off a mask to reveal who they really were.

Another great title for this film might have been “Furtive Glances”, because lord are those bandied about. Just look at that picture of Generic Hunk above, then cast your eyes onto Nerdy Hunk below. They’re trying to out-emote one another in some sort of attempt to give their characters something resembling depth and nuance, since the script does them no favors.

 

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I imagine writer Bart De Pauw gleefully twirling his mustache as he comes up with some other twist that he refuses to jettison, leaving the whole thing to feel like it was written by Alfred Hitchcock after suffering blunt force trauma to the head. The only thing worse than a film that thinks it’s clever when it’s actually dumb as a rock, is one which thinks it’s clever because it keeps the audience at such an impossible distance that they could never hope to sort it all out on their own. Seriously, if this and Van Damme are all the Belgians have to offer us in the way of cinema, they can keep it.

I’d love to tell you that the film is nice to look at, but apart from the various hunks and babes walking across the screen, its aesthetic is basically akin to a late night Skinemax flick. That’s truly disappointing because cinematographer Nicolas Karakatsanis shot last year’s gorgeously gritty “The Drop“, and here he appears to be aiming no higher than a “Red Shoe Diaries” – level of gauzy sleaze. It’s the kind of film that would have been right at home on “USA Up All Night”, and frankly, the fact that I think incessant bumpers from Gilbert Gottfried might have actually made the film better should tell you everything you need to know. All of the actors in this film have been good in other things, but they all look as lost as the audience, trying desperately to figure out what’s going on, despite the fact that they’ve all read the script and know how it turns out.

It’s virtually impossible to be disappointed by a January release in this day and age, but somehow “The Loft” fails to live up to even the lowest of expectations. Watching the film creak along through a series of mind numbing twists and turns, I was reminded of the story where director Garry Marshall needed to get a look of surprise from Al Pacino on the set of “Frankie & Johnny”, so he had William Shatner & Leonard Nimoy come over from the “Star Trek VI” set to surprise him. It failed to elicit any surprise because Pacino had no idea who they were. Twists don’t work when the audience has no frame of reference for them, and god bless you if you can sit through this, pay attention to it, and make sense of it all. I tried and failed, and I feel none the wiser as a result.

 

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RATING: *

 

 

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