(US/Belgium - 2015)
Directed by Erik Van Looy. Written by Wesley Strick. Cast: Karl Urban, James Marsden, Wentworth Miller, Eric Stonestreet, Matthias Schoenaerts, Rachael Taylor, Isabel Lucas, Rhona Mitra, Valerie Cruz, Kali Rocha, Elaine Cassidy, Margarita Levieva, Kristin Lehman, Robert Wisdom, Graham Beckel, Dora Madison Burge, Ric Reitz, Kathy Deitch, Laura Cayouette. (R, 103 mins)
It's rarely a good sign when a movie arrives in theaters in 2015 sporting a 2013 copyright after being shot in 2011. THE LOFT's nearly four years on the shelf have been attributed to distributor issues, with its release date shuffled numerous times as the film went from Warner Bros. to Universal, then finally to the smaller Open Road. It's not a terrible movie by any means, though it comes up far short of the USUAL SUSPECTS-type twistfest that it desperately tries to be. What's here is generally entertaining, diverting trash that could actually stand to be a little more trashy instead of just piling on the red herrings and dropped plot threads with reckless abandon. It's the kind of movie that offers unintended laughs when five people are in a room knowing that one among them is a killer, and we get close-ups of the five regarding each other with shifty, squinty eyes, accompanied by a ludicrously melodramatic Big Reveal/Cliffhanger/"Dun-Dun-DUUUUN!"-style music cue.
LOFT, which still stands as Belgium's highest-grossing homegrown film. LOFT was remade in similarly identical fashion as the Dutch LOFT in 2010. The 2008 LOFT was helmed by Erik Van Looy (THE MEMORY OF A KILLER), who makes his English-language directing debut with THE LOFT. Van Looy was also pressed into service on the Dutch LOFT when its director, Antoinette Beumer, and five others were injured by falling scaffolding on the set, stepping in as an uncredited backup director for a couple of weeks while Beumer recovered from her injuries. I'm not sure what else Van Looy can wring out of this story that he hasn't already, but THE LOFT (shot mostly in Brussels) follows the template of Bart De Pauw's original 2008 script, adapted by Wesley Strick, whose screenwriting credits include CAPE FEAR (1991), FINAL ANALYSIS (1992), and THE GLASS HOUSE (2001): five married guys have a secret apartment they agree to use as a getaway to hook up with mistresses and one-night stands. The whole thing is the brainchild of successful architect Vincent (Karl Urban), who gives keys to his four buddies: Chris (James Marsden), Luke (Wentworth Miller), Marty (Eric Stonestreet), and Philip (Matthias Schoenaerts, who played the same role in the Belgian LOFT). The film opens with Luke showing up at the loft and finding a dead, blood-covered blonde handcuffed to the bed. Van Looy cuts back and forth between the five men trying to work their way out of the situation and being interrogated by skeptical detectives (Kristin Lehman, Robert Wisdom), and the events of the previous year, starting with Vincent proposing the idea of the loft. All of the guys are bored with their perpetually sour-faced, ballbusting, complaining and/or needy wives. Shrink Chris fancies himself a family man but falls hard for icy blonde Anne (Rachael Taylor), who's not only the mistress of a city councilman (Ric Reitz), but also the sister of a patient who committed suicide. Vincent steps out on his wife (Valerie Cruz) with a younger woman (Isabel Lucas), with whom Luke is obsessed. Gregarious Marty, the loud fat guy of the group, sees his marriage ruined by his indiscretion on a business trip with Vincent and Luke. And Philip, the younger half-brother of Chris, is a violent cokehead who marries into a rich family and is irrationally overprotective of his 20-year-old sister (Dora Madison Burge).
VERY BAD THINGS, but at least it had a sick-humored, anything-goes sense of adventure to it. By the time everything is explained, THE LOFT has nothing left to do but end with a whimper, offering up one of the weakest denouements in recent memory. THE LOFT is perfectly OK as the kind of movie you stop on while channel-surfing, and it'll no doubt have a long life on Netflix Instant and cable. But while it's always nice to see a '90s-style thriller on the big screen these days, it would've been a lot better if it didn't take itself so seriously, inadvertently serving as the perfect example of why these kinds of movies faded from popularity in the first place.