Movie Review - The Loft (2015)

James Marsden (left) and Karl Urban
see their infidelities' end in 'The Loft'
This film is like Funny Games. It's a remake of a foreign film, remade by the original foreign filmmaker. Michael Haneke made Funny Games in 1997 in Austrian. He made it again in 2007 in English for an American company. This film was directed by Belgian filmmaker Erik Van Looy who originally directed it in 2008. It's not a shot-for-shot remake like Haneke did but it's close enough. Haneke cast all different actors. Looy retained one. It reinforces a kind of laziness, but the actor he retained is so good that Looy can hardly be blamed.

Looy fails as Haneke did because the remake is only an easy cash grab for American audiences. At least with Haneke, he had a point. He had something to say. Looy does not. He's just weaving a pulpy murder mystery. The problem is that the screenplay by Wesley Strick, adapting the Flemish script, is clearly working backwards where he knows the end, so he crafts everything to suit that ending regardless of the leaps leading to it that are perhaps too far to traverse.

Karl Urban (Star Trek and Dredd) stars as Vincent Stevens, an architect who designs a loft in a high-rise building that he wants he and his four friends to use as a secret place for them to have affairs being that all five of them are married. Vincent's private love nest is destroyed when a dead girl is found in the loft, and the five guys have to figure out what to do. The five are eventually questioned by the police. That scenario is then inter-cut with flashbacks over the course of a year leading up to the discovery of the dead girl. It's quasi-similar to the structure of The Usual Suspects (1995).

James Marsden (X-Men and Enchanted) stars as Chris, a psychiatrist who is the one of the five that doesn't want to use the loft for extramarital affairs. He actively resists until he meets Anne Morris, played by Rachel Taylor, a beautiful blond who is an escort to a powerful politician, Councilman Fry. Chris' relationship with Anne stands as the emotional through-line for the film. Unfortunately, it's not adequately handled. Beyond her beauty and her over-flirtations, there's no real reason why Chris engages in this affair, which for him becomes a loving one quite quickly. The true problems in his marriage are never truly explored, aside from a dinner scene in which Chris' wife expresses disapproval of his friends and rightfully so.

Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family) co-stars as Marty. He's the one friend of Chris who is the worst, at least ostensibly. Stonestreet seems to be playing the exact opposite of his character in Modern Family. Marty is a womanizing, foul-mouth clown and pig. He's nasty and rude, particularly to women. He's borderline, an out-and-out misogynist.

Wentworth Miller (Prison Break) co-stars as Luke, almost the exact opposite of Marty. He's more quiet, courteous and respectful, but he's shy and more introverted. He's also more repressed and hiding his emotions. He acts and dresses like Clark Kent but he doesn't work for a newspaper and he certainly isn't hiding a super hero as an alternate identity. He's also a diabetic, which is a factoid that never matters, yet it's presented in the film.

Matthias Schoenaerts (Bullhead and Rust and Bone) plays Philip, the brother of Chris who possibly works in real estate. He's the actor who was retained from the original Belgian film. Perhaps Looy is a psychic and knew to hang onto Schoenaerts. He appeared in two Oscar-nominated films and Rust and Bone was so well-received at the Cannes Film Festival that it made him an international star. He's a foreigner but he speaks fluent English, which most likely helped to put him in this film.

However, this film only plays off roles, which were far better done. It's similar to those other roles. Unfortunately, by comparison, it makes this role feel lesser. Chronologically, this role might have come first, but having seen it last it feels derivative and simply as just a wild extreme. For example, in Bullhead, Schoenaerts played such a brute, a veritable animal in terms of his temper and how he relates with women that you understand the title. That's amplified here to almost ridiculous degrees, as he plays a wild, drug addicted horn-dog who abuses prostitutes.

The film has such a clunky beginning with dialogue that is so awful. It does get into a rhythm that is purposeful in the clues it lays down. It's withholding by design but as such it keeps all its characters at a distance, keeping the audience from understanding any of them, and thus caring about any of them. There is a scene where Chris and Philip yell at each other in a very melodramatic, sibling rivalry moment, but, other that, all we see are the men performing vile acts with no context. I suppose that it helps to make things mysterious and keep the audience guessing, but it's also ultimately frustrating.

The wives of the men are barely developed, if at all. A couple of the wives get some nice comeuppance moments, but the rest of the interactions with the wives feel so hollow. The best part is that we at least get to see Karl Urban totally naked. Urban has a great body. He's tall and in great shape, and believably could have sex with everyone, which his character does. There's even a moment where he's speculated to have caught the eye of a man too, and you totally buy it. Unfortunately, there's no depth to his character. He's just a philanderer and nothing more.

Two Stars out of Five.
Rated R for sexual content, nudity, bloody violence, language and some drug use.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 44 mins.


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