Affairs are hard. Am I right? There’s the sneaking around, the mysterious charges on your credit cards, the constant stresses of potentially being caught by your significant other. What’s a guy to do? Well, obviously get together your five best friends to rent a loft in a trendy high rise where you can get your freak on without having to worry about consequences. It’s a plan so crazy, it has to work—except it doesn’t. Soon enough, their swinging sex pad has a naked dead body and five suspects.
I love a good mystery: one of those great old whodunnits, with sex, drugs and layers of scandal piled high atop one another. “The Loft” is a fun distraction that tries hard to channel old Hitchock thrillers of the 1950s. It never quite achieves its lofty goal, but it is a fun, unpretentious thriller with enough twists and turns to warrant a watch.
Vincent (Karl Urban) is a hunky architect that can’t get enough of the ladies. Chris (James Marsden) is a hunky psychiatrist who becomes obsessed with an escort. Lou (Wentworth Miller) is a neurotic, introverted hunk who struggles with an uninteresting marriage. Phil (Matthew Schoenaerts) is a hunky lothario, with an impulse-control problem, who likes two things: cocaine and whores—and he’s all out cocaine. Then there’s the oafish buffoon Marty (Eric Stonestreet), who is the Joey Fatone to this version of NSYNC.
I don’t want to harp on Eric Stonestreet, who has spent the last decade as part of the very successful “Modern Family,” but he is awful. Just awful—the kind of awful that made me understand why they didn’t show his highly recognizable face in any of the marketing. They were hiding him, and with good cause. Every time he opens his mouth and tries to act like a ridiculous lout, it made me cringe. There are four very effortless actors in “The Loft” and a sore thumb who kept poking me repeatedly in the eye. If they put a more-seasoned, less-abrasive actor in the role, I possibly could have given “The Loft” four stars. However, Stonestreet’s performance is so terrible it could inspire a worst-supporting actor category. (And he would win in a landslide.)
The groundwork of the film is laid out quickly: We meet these lifelong friends and know one of them is a stone-cold killer. There are flashbacks to the events leading up to the murder, which give us little hints about which of them is deranged enough to brutally kill one of their many lovers. Director Erik Van Looy employs a lot of sleight-of-hand to keep the viewers guessing, burying the fairly obvious under a pile of blackmail, scorned wives and real-estate development gone wrong.
The third act devolves into a series of “oh, no you didn’t!” moments, and the audience learns that none of these five philandering cheaters’ hands are clean. While it’s not much of a shock to anyone paying attention, it is nice to see a movie that allows its main characters to all be awful people. There’s barely a good guy in the group, which makes for a much more nuanced drama.
I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by “The Loft.” It’s a fun mystery that moves along briskly and features some entertaining performances. While I wouldn’t exactly call it a dissertation on monogamy or the sanctity of marriage, it is a wonderful soap opera that is far more interesting than it deserves to be.
I was reminded of last year’s “Side Effects,” a movie that never quite delivered on the promise of a good mystery. “The Loft” does a lot more right than wrong, and with the exception of a horrendous performance from Stonestreet, it really is well-executed and more like a very polished Lifetime movie.
Much of the credit I give to “The Loft” comes from the lack of this kind of product in a crowded cineplex. I’m not gonna say “The Loft” is anywhere as good as a similar film like “Gone Girl,” but it would be nice to see more thrillers with adult content peppered into the explosion-filled monstrosities released week after week.
Starring Karl Urban, James Marsden and Wentworth Miller
Directed by Erik Van Looy