In 2008, director Erik Van Looy made a Dutch-language film called Loft, and it stands to this day as one of the most successful Flemish films of all time. So, attempting to strike gold a second time, it was done again here in the States; though judging from early critical reception, it didn’t quite live up to its lofty expectations.
The movie is an ensemble cast film starring Karl Urban as debonair, womanizing architect Vincent and his two best friends, conspicuously stoic Luke – played by Wentworth Miller – and somewhat sympathetic but still somehow sleazy Chris, played by James Marsden. Vincent had a loft apartment designed in a building he constructed for private use for him and his friends in their would-be extra-marital affairs. Despite reluctance from all parties – sans the overly enthusiastic drunken loudmouth Marty, played by Eric Stonestreet – they all accept a key to the loft.
One fateful morning, Luke walks in and finds the body of a dead woman that he doesn’t recognize. He calls the rest of the men there to not only ascertain the identity of the woman, but to figure out not only how she got there – with the five of them having the only copies of the key – but just how did said perpetrator deactivate the loft’s security system. Suspense mounts and intrigue piques as a majority of the film’s story is told in a series of flashbacks, giving hints to which of the men are guilty as they, in turn, attempt to solve the grisly murder and remove the evidence before the police can show up, not only arresting them but revealing to each of their wives what they had been up to.
This film is, intentionally or otherwise, perhaps the closest thing to a Hitchcock film in recent memory. It is such an uncomplicated story, and yet there is so much going on as each stand and thread of the plot begins to reveal itself. There are red herrings, swerves, and even a twist that a large percentage of the audience won’t see coming as we get to know each of the men in the predicament. The only weakness of the film is a somewhat extended denouement past the largest reveals; since a majority of the tension had been removed from the film, the ending tends to have a feeling of drag that is somewhat inexcusable considering the build up to said point.
The strength of this film is the credibility of the characters. Each one of them is established with a small number of traits; enough to make them all notably different without making them needlessly complicated. From those traits, each of them has their own story arc with each of them ending with their own level of both redemption and downfall. As a result, unlike similar movies with ensemble casts, you will walk away knowing the names of all the central characters, and each of them will likely elicit conflicting emotional responses. Some might be distracted by Stonestreet, being unable to separate him from his character on Modern Family. However, this association is quickly dissolved as he creates his boisterous and often intoxicated character.
Many reviews are in for this movie; damning it across the board for its lack of a sympathetic character. However, it can be argued that this serves to the film’s credit more than its detriment. This is a film where the entire premise is a story of five married men who use a secret loft apartment to bring home women to have sex with who isn’t any of their wives. Before a single frame is shown, the audience is already made privy to the fact that all of these men are reprehensible and morally corrupt, and from there it’s a matter of degree.
As such, since the morals of these men is already called into question, the idea that one if not all of them are capable of murder is credible, and that provides the sense of intrigue as the audience could be led to believe that not only could any of the men be capable, but their jealous wives, who throughout are shown to be potentially more and more aware to the suspect behavior and outright flimsy cover stories for their respective husbands.
This film made me feel something for the characters, created ones that were memorable enough that their names are still fresh the following day, and created a story whose ending I couldn’t see a mile away. Considering the level of schlock thrown on the screen that garners little more than a “meh”, I will take soap opera dialogue spoken by credible, enjoyable actors with a memorable story any day.
In theaters Jan. 30th, watch the trailer.