The Loft

The Loft (2014)
Universal Home Video
Cast: Karl Urban, James Marsden, Wentworth Miller, Eric Stonestreet, Matthias Schoenaerts

Loft1When I received “The Loft” Blu-ray to review, I had barely heard of the film. I knew it was released earlier this year (in January, known among movie fans as the “studios dumping ground”) and it quickly disappeared from cinemas. Before watching the feature, I briefly checked out Rotten Tomatoes for the critical consensus. Not good; the site lists the film with an 11% Tomatometer rating. With shaking hands, I put the disc in the tray…

Five men of varying degrees of professional affluence have a dirty little secret between them: a loft apartment in the city, maintained for the sole purpose of conducting extramarital trysts. The proverbial “things go wrong” inciting incident occurs when the dead body of a beautiful naked woman is found. What first looks like a suicide begins to appear more like homicide. As the five men try to piece together what happened, suspicions that the murderer might be one of them begin to unravel their solidarity and unshakable belief in the mastery of their universe. Shadows slowly start to engulf loyalties, secrets unbeknownst to each other emerge and revelations lead to a shattering climax. That’s pretty much the clichéd gist of the narrative.

Loft2“The Loft” is the Americanization of a 2008 Belgian thriller. In both instances, the film was directed by Erik Van Looy. For this version, Wesley Strick adapted Bart DePauw’s original screenplay. While the cast is impressive – Karl Urban from the “Star Trek” reboot, James Marsden from the “X-Men” films, Wentworth Miller from TVs’ “Prison Break,” Eric Stonestreet, FAR removed from his flamboyant character on “Modern Family” and Matthias Schoenarts, the only actor holdover from the original – we are constantly reminded that their characters are thoroughly reprehensible. Unfortunately, this oily quintet also suffers from hackneyed characterizations. There’s the hothead reactionary, the cool-headed realist, the puppy-dog submissive and in the case of Stonestreet, the obesity-as-metaphor-for-sexual-frustration caricature.

The narrative does more time traveling than Marty McFly. Flashbacks dominate the propulsion of the story, but knowing what’s past and present wasn’t always immediately obvious. Even more annoying, “The Loft” is one of those movies where every person in this specific milieu is physically stunning. And EVERYBODY seems to be lusting after everyone else. There’s not a single scene without a heavy dose of sexual tension, even among total strangers. I almost wished there would have been a supermarket scene, only to have each aisle populated with Stepford Wives lusting after the butcher as well as the Weekly Specials.

Loft4To its credit (yes, it has a couple of virtues), we might be watching the story of five schmucks getting their comeuppance, but it did keep my interest for the entire feature. The lead actors create a believable sense of camaraderie leading to an equally credible paranoia. And for all the red herrings (a trawler full here) thrown at the audience, the denouement takes great pains to resolve all the lingering questions and leave the viewer with a tiny (alright, infinitesimal) measure of goodwill towards the characters.

Technically speaking, the Blu-ray exhibits the same degree of physical perfection as its occupants. The 2.40:1 high definition transfer never disappoints in presenting a consistently immaculate and highly detailed picture. Razor stubble and furniture leather never looked so compelling! Colors are solid and brilliant.

Loft3The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio is just as luxurious. While we’re not talking “The Hobbit” level of sonic activity here, but on its own terms, this is a very aggressive and active soundtrack. Scenes where “sturm” sound effects collide with “drang” musical cues are nicely balanced. The center channel will get a full workout, but I don’t recall a single time where I had to strain to hear what was being said (despite a few times when I winced after hearing what was uttered).
Bonus features are completely absent on this release. The Blu-ray includes a Digital HD copy.

If I had caught “The Loft” on one of the cable channels, I probably would have a higher opinion of it, only due to the complete lack of effort required to watch it. As a Blu-ray for purchase or even rent, I’d say your time and money would be better spent elsewhere.