‘Loft’: A not so thrilling thriller

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“The Loft” is an erotic thriller, which attempts to milk dubious plot twists for titillation.

Vincent Stevens (Karl Urban) is a handsome, young real estate developer. He has just completed his most recent project, a stylish residential high-rise.

At a launch reception for the deluxe apartment building, we meet four of his buddies. Chris Van Owen (James Marden) is another good-looking dude, who happens to be a psychiatrist. His younger stepbrother, Phillip Trauner (Matthias Schoenaerts), a coke-snorting ne’er-do-well, plagued with a contentious history with Chris. Marty Landry (Eric Stonestreet) is a porcine schlub with a drinking problem and all the social grace of a college frat boy. Rounding out the quintet is Luke Seacord (Wentworth Miller). He seems distinguished only by the fact that he wears glasses.

These guys seem like an unlikely peer group. What do they have in common? All of them are married men or, in Phillip’s case. about to enter into matrimony.  All of them are lustful men. With the exception of Chris, they are saddled with mates, who are either emasculating and unpleasant, emotionally unavailable, or otherwise unbearable. This is supposed to provide the film’s convenient justification for the men’s lascivious proclivities.

Vincent has a proposition for his crew. They will collectively purchase a condo in his new building. It will serve as a trysting spot for the libidinous five. This will obviate inculpatory credit card statements for hotel rooms and other evidence of adulterous assignations with mistresses or one night stands.

Of course, such an arrangement depends on consummate discretion. Vincent’s ill-advised choice of condo partners seems fraught with potential problems. Chris is happily married and disinclined to cheat on his wife. Phillip has an anger management problem and persistently displays poor judgment. He is about to marry the daughter of his boss. Undaunted by his pending nuptials, he brazenly cavorts about town with a pair of strumpets draped all over him. The fat and socially maladroit Marty seems incapable of attracting a woman. As for Luke, he doesn’t seem to have much of an appetite for women. Does he harbor a secret crush on Vincent?

Chris has always been faithful to his wife. Then, he meets a strikingly attractive blond, Anne Morrow (Rachael Taylor), at a reception. She happens to be the surviving sister of one of Chris’ patients, who committed suicide. However, Anne insists that she bears no resentment towards Chris for any lapse in his professional care of her sibling. She glibly pronounces that some people are, “just born unhappy.” Does this statement reflect how she really feels or does she harbor some secret agenda? Either way, Chris is now smitten. His reservations about buying a share in the condo suddenly dissolve.

Later, while on a business trip, Vincent meets another strikingly attractive blonde, Sarah Deakins (Isabel Lucas). The two adjourn to a rooftop swimming pool and have an sexual encounter. Wouldn’t it have made sense to cast a non-blond as one of the randy female adultery partners to help the viewer keep them straight?

Things take a dark turn. Vincent discovers Sarah dead in the apartment.  Vincent summons his suite mates to the murder scene. According to him, he only had five keys cut to the apartment. Vincent contends that they were custom made and could not be duplicated without his secret code. He insists that he did not kill Sarah. So, one of the other men must be responsible for framing him. What’s going on here?

The five suspects are dragged into the police headquarters for interrogation by a pair of homicide detectives (engagingly portrayed by Kristin Lehman and Robert Wisdom in limited screen time). Curiously, none of these well-heeled, presumably savvy professional men bothers to ask for an attorney. Even more counterintuitive is the fact that one of the homicide detectives suggests that Vincent phone his lawyer before proceeding further. Isn’t this the antithesis of what a confession-driven police interrogator would be inclined to do? Hasn’t the remake’s screenwriter,  Wesley Strick, ever seen an episode of “Law & Order”? This represents just one of the film’s many glaring incongruities.  These are augmented by a slew of narrative glitches.

This will be the third time that Erik van Looy has directed the same film. He had helmed the 2008 Belgian original. It became the biggest grossing film in Belgian history. In 2010, it became a Dutch language remake. When that version’s director, Antoinette Beumer, suffered an accident, van Looy temporarily stepped in. Now, van Looy helms the Hollywood version. There is an old adage, which suggests that the third try is a charm. Thoroughly meretricious, “The Loft,” belies the hackneyed cliché.

“The Loft” is a not so thrilling thriller, replete with a disturbing streak of misogyny.

** R (for sexual content, nudity, bloody violence, language and some drug use) 108 minutes

A screen capture from a trailer to the film "The Loft" at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1bJZYqGfYGE

A screen capture from a trailer to the film “The Loft” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1bJZYqGfYGE

Nathan Lerner sees over 200 feature films a year. He welcomes feedback at lernerprose@gmail.com.


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