'The Loft': Film Review

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A beautiful blonde is discovered murdered in a sleek bachelor pad in Erik Van Looy's remake of his 2008 Belgian thriller.

Not having seen his 2008 Belgian version, it's hard to tell whether repeating director Erik Van Looy has exactly followed in the footsteps of George Sluizer, who remade his classic The Vanishing into a misbegotten American version. But it's certainly true that The Loft is the sort of subpar thriller that has not translated well to our shores. Being released on the traditionally low-performing Super Bowl weekend without being screened in advance for critics, the film, which has sat on the shelf for several years, should do a fast fade from theaters.

Erotic thrillers are a time-tested genre, but this effort, scripted by Wesley Strick, is neither erotic nor thrilling. The title refers to the sleek bachelor pad co-owned by five men solely for the purpose of conducting illicit liaisons. Unfortunately one of them doesn't work out so well, as a dead woman is discovered one morning handcuffed to the bed with a Latin phrase written in blood on the wall.

Cue the whodunit plot machinations, as the quintet who possess the sole keys to the apartment begin arguing among themselves as to which one of them is the culprit. As with so many procedurals of this type, the story is told in flashback, the framing device being the interrogations conducted by a pair of hard-boiled detectives (Kristin Lehman, Robert Wisdom) with the suspects, who apparently haven't seen enough Law & Order episodes to think to ask for a lawyer.

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The possible murderers include womanizing architect Vincent (Karl Urban); his suspiciously jealous friend Luke (Wentworth Miller); vulgar, drunken lech Marty (Eric Stonestreet); Luke's emotionally volatile half-brother Philip (Mattias Schoenaerts, reprising his role from the original); and sensitive shrink Chris (James Marsden). Among their romantic conquests are Hitchcock blondes Anne (Rachael Taylor), the sister of a patient of Chris' who killed herself, and Sarah (Isabel Lucas), the unfortunate victim.

The overly convoluted plot, which includes extensive flashbacks depicting the men's strained interactions with their long-suffering wives, quickly lapses into tedium unrelieved by the laughably silly dialogue. "There's a dead woman in our loft," one of the men announces quite unnecessarily long after she's been discovered, while during a tense moment in the proceedings another cries, "Guys, we cannot keep doing this!"

Desperately delivering enough twists and turns to fuel a dozen or so thrillers, the ultimate resolution to the mystery is so ridiculously contrived that it makes the climax of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express seem simple by comparison.

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The lead actors, who have graduated to more illustrious projects since this film was shot, strain to bring complexity to their schematic roles. They generally fail, although there is some amusement to be derived from watching Stonestreet obviously enjoying himself in a role that's 180 degrees from his Modern Family character.   

The film at least looks good, with cinematographer Nicholas Karakatsanis photographing the beautiful titular setting and gorgeous bodies on display with a glossy sheen. Despite the unfortunate fates befalling several of the characters, the film could well serve to encourage both extramarital affairs and the sale of upscale loft apartments.

Production companies: Woestijnvis, Anonymous Content
Cast: Karl Urban, James Marsden, Wentworth Miller, Eric Stonestreet, Matthias Schoenaerts, Isabel Lucas, Rachael Taylor
Director: Erik Van Looy
Screenwriter: Wesley Strick
Producers: Hilde De Laere, Matt DeRoss, Paul Green, Adam Shulman
Executive producers: Wim Tack, Wouter Vandenhaute, Erik Watte, Barbara Kelly, Steve Golin, Wesley Strick
Director of photography: Nicolas Karakatsanis
Production designer: Maia Javan
Editor: Eddie Hamilton
Costume designer: Liz Staub
Composer: John Frizzell
Casting: Barbara Fiorentino

Rated R, 108 minutes