The Loft

Blondes have more fun, but also get murdered
★★
☆☆☆☆☆
Released: 
2015
Director: 
Erik Van Looy
Starring: 
Karl Urban, James Marsden, Wentworth Miller, Matthias Schoenaerts
The Setup: 
Five guys share a loft in which a murder occurred.
Discussion: 

I can’t make excuses for why I saw this. It looked fun and I thought it had potential to be clever. In retrospect, it kind of was fun, although it’s getting rapidly less fun the more I piece together how absolutely pointless it was. As for potential to be clever, well, another one lost. This is basically a string of red herrings and reversals that occupy the mind for as long as they’re onscreen [after which they are simply replaced by another] but none of them are building to anything interesting, anything clever, or anything with something to say. And guess what else? This is the American remake of a Belgian film, remade by the same director of the original. And from what I have heard, it is a virtual carbon copy, leading The Onion to brilliantly sum it up: “[director] Van Looy has made a puzzle for a puzzle’s sake, to no discernible thematic end. And now he’s done it twice.”

The film does remain, however, better than a kick in the head.

So this guy Luke comes into the loft and finds a dead woman handcuffed to the bed, lying in a pool of blood. Soon all the guys assemble, and they agree that they’ll figure it out without calling the police, “because we’re friends.” In here, we’re also having flashes of them being interrogated by the police later that day, so we know that it all comes down within one day. We have flashbacks to a year earlier, when Vincent (Karl Urban), an architect, shows his friends this loft in the building he designed, that they will all have a share in, and it will be their secret place for affairs, and their wives won’t know. I’m sure you understand how a man could buy in on a piece of real estate without his wife knowing. How a few hundred thousand dollars could simply go missing in a family budget [possible, but unlikely]. So the concept is that only the five of them have keys, therefore, one of them must have done it.

The guys mostly have one characteristic each. Marsden as Chris is a good guy in a loveless marriage. Marty is a crass asshole. Philip is Chris’ half-brother and a coked-up asshole who abuses women. Luke is a weirdo creep. They are all married to brunette wives who are all major sourpusses. Then there are two blondes, both seemingly pretty crazy [but also "sexy," in that boring but popular (and anorexic) way], Anne, who Chris takes to bed, and Sarah, who shows up halfway through the movie. If you picked up that women in the movie are either married/brunette/sourpuss or single/blonde/sexy-but-borderline psychotic, you’re right!

So it’s difficult for me to synopsize the movie when I know that most of the events that happen in it turn out to be so completely pointless. There are numerous twists and reveals, but instead of assembling a list of clues that a canny viewer could use to solve the puzzle, the whole movie is just a series of mild shocks and reveals to keep your interest goosed in a fairly trashy way, that ultimately have almost nothing to do with what is actually finally revealed. Something happens that makes us suspect this character, then all the guys stare at that character, then something happens to make us suspect another character, and then everyone looks at the other character. When we aren’t seeing the guys looking suspiciously at each other, we’re seeing their wives looking suspiciously at them. Throughout things are happening that seems significant, but prove ultimately not to be. There is a whole developed sideline about a local politician that ends up having zero bearing on the story.

Meanwhile, there are so many flashbacks from various times in the past year [and later that same day] that after awhile you cannot figure out what happened when. In a particularly bad one, we see a blonde leave the building, then Marsden following a blonde… same day? No, turns out to be earlier. Halfway through the movie I suddenly wondered: Wait, so who does the laundry? Only they have keys, and it’s top secret. So who cleans the [spotless] place?

There is a certain point at which something genuinely unexpected happens, and from there we go through the several shocking—and increasingly preposterous—reveals to tell us what finally happened, which I would explain to you, except that it is too fucking dumb for me to even waste my time writing it out! What’s interesting, though, is that for a while the interest picks up as the movie goes to looney town with its over-the-top surprises, but then, somewhere, there starts a slow deflation of any tension, until the movie finally ends with a squish. The actual ending is a wipe-to-black that is so tentative in feel, the only way you know the movie is over is that a credit comes onscreen.

So it’s a good setup for a mystery, with only five suspects who are friends, and a wide array of themes to explore, from their “bros before ho’s” wolfpack loyalty to their unspoken homoeroticism to their marital tensions to their inter-group jealousies to the culture of cheating, and… the movie doesn’t make anything of any of it. It’s kind of one of these things where, apparently for the filmmakers, just having a good idea is enough, and nothing more need be done from there. This screenplay is credited to Wesley Strick, who apparently all but transcribed the earlier screenplay, eschewing [or being prevented by the director] taking the opportunity to develop any of it in an interesting way.

There are some mysteries which lay out clues that help you guess what’s happening and make your own case, then there are ones that purposely subvert that and throw in a surprise that wasn’t prepared for… both of which describe a level of planning that this movie does not deliver. This one is just made up of incidents and red herrings, intended to make you look over here, look over there, this one’s suspicious, now THIS one’s suspicious, and what about that—until it suddenly reveals the ludicrous conclusion. How ludicrous? Let’s just say that three characters “killed” the woman separately, unbeknownst to the others.

So I didn’t see the original, nor do I plan to, but it seems like a case of eurotrash garbage being remade into stateside garbage. This opened without any advance reviews, in only a few theaters and debuted at number 10, having made under $3 million… I don’t get it, why remake it at all if you’re not going to try for some success? Wasn’t the whole purpose if this to at least make money? These are the only mysterious things about this movie. Then again, this was supposed to open in the fall, but they pushed it back and dumped it in January, so apparently we’re not the only ones who realize it’s kind of a hunk of garbage.

Should you watch it: 

It passes time as well as anything, but don’t pay for it.

Comments

For some reason, "better than a smack on the tit with a wet fish" has become a catchphrase between me and my wife.

About 5 lines into this review I was thinking "BASIC!" (the schlocky John Travolta film)

Is that Wentworth Miller at the back of the group shot between Marsden and Urban? And does he look like that through the film? Because why hire Wentworth Miller and then make him look like a Hollywood sterotype of an accountant (no offense to actual accountants, I know that in real life they can be gorgeous)? Maybe that's the real mystery here.

I was rather shocked by that myself, as he looks like an uber-douche here and I was surprised to learn that he was kinda hot in Prison Break.

The only thing worth watching in the original film is Filip Peeters.