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The Loft, a new neo-noir thriller based on a Belgium film of the same name, is about five married friends who go in together and purchase a condo (hence the title) where they can take their mistresses in secret. Things go a tad awry when one of them shows up one morning and finds a dead woman in the bed. Since the five are the only ones that have keys, then one of them must have done the deed.
This is actually quite an intriguing concept and the main reason to see the movie. No matter however else I may have felt about it, I did find myself sticking around just to find out who dunnit.
Of course, the ne-noir aspects of the movie are like the articles in a Playboy Magazine. They’re the reason why you say you read it, when in all honesty you are engaged in activities that stick the pages together.
Here, one may be going for the thrills and chills, but I suspect deep down in the audience’s heart (of which the vast majority I suspect are mainly men, many married), they are really there to see some hot man on woman action of husbands cheating on their wives.
However, I should warn you that if you are, you might find the movie a bit of a bait and switch.
But more on that later.
In many ways, I have to admire the writers, Bart De Pauw, the Belgian actor who wrote the original film, and Wesley Strick (who has some mojo in his past with True Believer, Arachnophobia and Cape Fear), who adapted it for the U.S. filming.
It is, at times, an incredibly clever series of red herrings, turns of the screw, “I didn’t see that comings” and “gee, they really had me fooled on that one”. I mean, the two really pile it on. Just when you think the last plot twist has unraveled, you find another Gordian knot has taken its place.
Unfortunately, in the end, as enjoyable as all that puzzle piece plotting sometimes was, that’s about all the movie has going for it.
The characters, to begin, are never quite that interesting, though I think much of that has to do with the acting. Only Eric Stonestreet, as a pussy whipped husband who talks bigger than his actions, really breaks through the quite artificial edifice and creates a fully realized character. He’s so despicable, but also so recognizable. By the time it’s all over, you even kind of feel sorry for him; against your better judgment, perhaps, but still.
In addition, Matthias Schoenaerts (the wonderful actor of Bullhead, Rust and Bone and The Drop) has his moments playing the same character he did in this movie’s original incarnation.
But the other three men, Karl Urban (Dr. McCoy of Star Trek), James Marsden (X-Men, Hairspray) and Wentworth Miller (Prison Break) never quite seem to deliver. Their performances always feel a bit obvious and on the nose and even forced.
Some of this is due to the unwieldy dialog they are sometimes expected to say (it takes a lot of unwieldiness to have this many twists and turns) and some of this is due to the director Erik Van Looy (who directed the original) who here doesn’t seem to have that deft a touch with the actors and has trouble creating a satisfying rhythm to the whole thing.
And the basic plot has some issues as well. The set up and how the loft comes to be and how the five get involved is clunky and not quite believable. We don’t really know the characters well enough to really buy that they would do something like this on such short notice (it might have helped if every one of them, or at least four out of five, were already cheating on their wives, but at the start only one is and one is cheating on his future bride).
I also would like to know how they really managed to get a loan and mortgage, or if they didn’t go that route and just paid cash, how they bought the place without arousing the suspicions of their wives (this is not a bed sitting room in a building on Baltic Avenue, but a Donald Trump type bachelor pad on Park Place—in other words, it ain’t cheap, even for five people). I was never quite convinced that all of them, or even a good number, could have pulled that off.
This also led me to another one of those weird buzzing bee of a questions that sometimes annoyingly pops up in movies like this—the screenplay goes to an incredible length to carefully set up that only the five men have keys and know the security code.
So who the hell does the cleaning?
At any rate, there are two other issues I had with the plot. The first is the bait and switch.
The story is about five guys who buy a condo so they can have sex. Okay. But in the movie, it’s amazing how little sex they have or is shown. Two never use it. One is shown once. One has a single girlfriend he sleeps with, but little is shown there.
It’s only Vincent, the Karl Urban character, who is shown to really use it, and then only at the end.
I mean, not only is this movie about sexual rendezvous incredibly antiseptic and virginal, and because of that sex never really drives the story, I would think that some of the characters would be going, wait, I paid how much for this place and never use it? What the hell was I thinking?
But the real issue is the ending. When everything comes out and all is said and done, and you find out who really did it, there’s something very odd here. And this is a big spoiler. And it’s a little hard to explain.
Let’s just say that the group makes it look like the woman killed herself (when one of them actually murdered her) in a way such that everyone thinks Vincent caused her suicide. But the real murderer then pulls a sort of double cross and manipulates things so that it looks like Vincent actually killed her.
The problem is that when the group makes it look like she killed herself, she was actually still alive, but just in a diabetic coma. So one of them actually kills her without knowing it. So Vincent, as was planned by one of the five, is now accused of murdering her.
The problem is that if the woman really was alive (though no one knew it) when she was discovered, and one of them killed her, they are all responsible in some way since they didn’t call the police. They are all guilty of some sort of manslaughter.
But only one of them is on trial. The real murderer kills himself and the other two are back leading their lives.
I’m sorry, but no. The two would not be back leading their lives. They would be held accountable to some degree and also be up on charges. I mean, they’ve broken so many laws, I think the DA’s computer would crash. It’s just preposterous they are wandering the streets as they are now with no legal ramifications.
I really think the movie misses a great ironic ending here. That Vincent, the worst of them all, who everyone tried to frame for a character’s suicide, and one tried to frame for murder, is the only one of the five who walks completely free; and not only that, ends up living at the loft, while everyone ends up being punished.
But for some reason, this ending twas not to be.
Even though Thomas Schoenaerta was in the film The Drop last year, The Loft is actually his first film in English. The movie was filmed in 2011, but only just released. You be the judge.