Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 48 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Sexual Content, Nudity, Bloody Violence, Language and some Drug Use
Directed by: Erik Van Looy
Written by: Wesley Strick
Starring: Karl Urban, James Marsden, Wentworth Miller, Eric Stonestreet, Matthias Schoenaerts, Rhona Mitra, Rachael Taylor, Isabel Lucas & Valerie Cruz
THE LOFT is strange in that I can’t imagine the conversation that green lit this project in the first place. A remake of a 2008 Dutch thriller directed by Erik Van Looy, who helmed the original film, this would-be Hitchcockian thriller revolves around an iffy premise to begin with. The viewer is forced to follow five wholly unlikable scumbags put in a compromising position. Originally scheduled for an August 2014 release and then postponed until January (where studio films go to die), THE LOFT isn’t nearly as terrible as the promotional material and critical reception suggests. It’s certainly bad, but also ridiculous to a level where I found myself half-heartedly enjoying it for the sheer cheesy nature of the ludicrous story being told.
Five friends (Vincent, Chris, Luke, Marty, and Phillip) rent a secluded loft where they can bring their one night stands and mistresses. All five husbands don’t necessarily feel like filing for divorce, so this clever ruse leaves their wives in dark about their infidelity. However, this scheme blows up in their faces when a dead girl is discovered in the loft. She has been handcuffed to the bed, her wrist sliced open, and a message in Latin written on the bed frame. Someone is going after these five unfaithful jerks, but the mystery is to who that person is and what exactly is happening. The plot (connected through flashbacks) slowly pieces the puzzle together as its revealed that each of these men have dark personal secrets to hide from each other as well as their wives.
THE LOFT is constructed in a way that feels very cheap, in spite of a 14 million budget. There are unneeded lens flares, scenes with far too much quick editing (I counted 10 cuts in the space of less than 10 seconds at one point), out of focus shots, and the corny trick of using hazy post-production blurs to simulate someone being drugged. There’s a strong sense that this should have been dumped direct to DVD as opposed to receiving a wide theatrical release, but there’s also enjoyment in just how silly the execution of this already questionable thriller comes off.
I think it’s fair to say that everyone in this cast was phoning their performances in for a quick paycheck. Karl Urban is usually quite good, but feels like he’s rushing through his lines as the obligatory one-dimensional scumbag. James Marsden and Wentworth Miller are given slightly more fleshed-out characters, but come off wooden too. Relative newcomer Matthias Schoenaerts actually delivers the best performance as Marsden’s character’s mentally unstable cokehead brother, but isn’t given as much screen time as everyone else. The less said about Eric Stonestreet’s embarrassing comic relief character, the better. The female characters might as well have been cardboard cut-outs, including a criminally wasted Rhona Mitra as Marsden’s already suspicious wife who grows even more bitter against her husband after the Loft scheme begins.
I said at the beginning of my review that there’s silly enjoyment to be gained in watching THE LOFT, but thus far I’ve bashed the lame style and bad performances. However, I was entertained watching the plot unfold in an interesting manner. The characters might be totally irredeemable, but there’s some fun to be had in seeing them turn on each other and reveal dark secrets that make up the overall story. Big plot holes are opened by a handful of ridiculous revelations (one bombshell in particular), but a couple of surprise developments actually work to a certain degree. If these moments were employed in a better thriller, they could have easily been shocking twists. Instead, they come off as ridiculous entertainment in a poor man’s attempt at a Hitchcock thriller. Still, I was never bored and there’s something to be said for that.
It’s still a mystery how this remake was even made in the first place. The premise doesn’t exactly scream widespread appeal and the cast all deliver sub-par performances. I’m not sure how this compares to the original Dutch version (which might be a far better film), but I enjoyed the entertainingly convoluted nature of the already silly overcomplicated plot. THE LOFT is trashy fun. This is certainly a bad movie, but still might entertain you in a guilty pleasure way that was never intended to begin with.