With this English-language remake of his 2008 Belgian film “Loft,” Erik Van Looy may just have repeated the dubious distinction that George Sluizer achieved with his redoing of his superb thriller “Spoorloos” (1988) as “The Vanishing” five years later: managing to make a movie so disastrously bad that it will kill any chance for a future career in Hollywood. “The Loft” is absurdly, hilariously terrible, a thriller with characters so repulsive that it’s not so much a whodunit as a whocareswhodunit.
The premise might have Billy Wilder spinning in his grave, representing as it does a riff on “The Apartment.” Five married pals decide to go in together on a pad in the new building designed by one of them—Vincent (Karl Urban). Keeping one key for himself, Vincent—who’s married to Barbara (Valerie Cruz)—gives the others to Chris (James Marsden), a psychologist whose wife Allison (Rhona Mitra) seems perpetually depressed; Philip (Matthias Schoenaerts), Chris’ hot-tempered brother, who’s just wed Vicky (Margarita Levieva), the daughter of a big real estate magnate; Marty (Eric Stonestreet), a fat, loudmouth drunkard whose wife Mimi (Kali Rocha) tolerates him; and Luke (Wentworth Miller), a buttoned-down sort married to Ellie (Elaine Cassidy) but in thrall to Vincent. All intend to use the place for their extramarital trysts, though Chris is a reluctant player and Luke frankly seems too emotionally desiccated to come on to any woman.
We see this set-up during an elaborate assemblage of flashbacks, however, because the movie begins with scenes of the guys being interrogated by cops, followed by an initial flashback to Luke’s discovery of the butchered body of a woman handcuffed to the loft’s bed. He summons the others to the apartment and together they bicker about what should be done and accuse one another of responsibility for the murder. Over the course of the morning many more flashbacks reveal a whole slew of compilations piled upon complications leading to the unhappy situation in the loft. The most significant are Chris’ involvement with an icy blonde named Ann (Rachael Taylor), who’s constantly on the arm of a sleazy city councilman in league with Philip’s father-in-law, and a business trip to San Diego, where the boys meet blonde bombshell Sarah Deakins (Isabel Lucas). Could either of these two be the woman sprawled, face down, on the bed?
As noted above, it’s hard to care whether it is or not, or to remain the least interested in what might happen to any of these characters, since nobody proceeds past the cardboard stage, given that the plot turns grow increasingly artificial, the dialogue is ludicrously flat, and the actors’ delivery of it is so stilted that it sounds as though they’re reciting their lines phonetically, even though English is the first language of most of them. You might want to give Van Looy and his cast the benefit of the doubt by assuming that the loopy style they’ve all adopted is designed to turn the movie into a parody of the over-plotted puzzle picture with double-crosses galore, only to be succeeded by triple- and quadruple-crosses and capped by a final reel in which the twists come fast and furious, each more ridiculous than the last.
But that appears to give the filmmakers entirely too much credit. Why else would they have cast Lucas, whose performance could be compared only to Bo Derek at her worst (see “Tarzan”). Not that any of the others distinguish themselves, except in awfulness. Special mention is due to Schoenaerts, who’s reprising his part from the 2008 Belgian original, but Stonestreet is perhaps even worse, and even a dependable actor like Marston finds himself stranded in the mire. The look of the film is unattractive, too, with an uninspired production design by Maia Javan and bleached-out cinematography by Nicolas Karakatsanis.
“The Loft” deserves recognition, though, not only because it might derail any hope of a career Van Looy might have hoped for in Hollywood, but because its unremitting awfulness could just earn it a place among camp classics. Clear out a space on the ‘Le Bad Cinema’ shelf for this turkey.