The Loft

James Marsden and Rachael Taylor in The Loft . (Ster Kinekor)
James Marsden and Rachael Taylor in The Loft . (Ster Kinekor)

What it's about:

Five married men buy an expensive loft apartment for their extramarital activities with their assorted mistresses, one-night-stands and working girls, but their shared secret takes an even darker turn when, one morning, one of them discover the body of a young, naked woman, brutally murdered and left face down in one of their beds.

What we thought:

In many respects a locked-room murder mystery, The Loft is a quite old fashioned bit of sexy, pulpy fun about a group of fairly reprehensible men getting entangled in a web of lies, murder, secrets double-crosses and beautiful femme fatales. It's far from the best example of its genre (for truly great modern-day pulp, check out the Ed Brubaker/ Sean Phillips line of graphic novels from Image Comics) but it's a lot more effortlessly enjoyable than most of the stinky overseas reviews may have you believe.

The Loft is actually the second remake of Erik Van Looy's 2008 film, Loft, with the same director taking the helm for this English-language remake, working off a script by Wesley Strick, which is itself a direct adaptation of the original script by Bart De Pauw (got all that?). I have seen neither the original, nor the 2010 Dutch remake, but the mix of American and European sensibilities in this current remake are never less than fascinating.

Their something hilariously European (or at least hilariously stereotypically European) about five young, well-to-do blokes getting together to buy a “shagging pad” for their inevitable, shall we say,  sexual indiscretions, but for all the film's quite un-American sexual liberty (though still quite American coyness when it comes to actually showing anything), it's steeped in the rich tradition of American pulps.

This is also why it's utterly pointless getting upset about the film's laughably nutso sexual politics – as some have been want to do. The film basically condemns its “heroes” as unapologetically misogynist pigs, while at the same time having an overall aesthetic that is probably entirely guilty of every feminist buzzword imaginable (sleazy, exploitative, male-gazing, sexually-objectifying) – but that very paradox is what makes it so compelling. Besides, what kind of pulp pastiche would it be if wasn't sexy and even just a little bit sleazy?   

As for the actual murder mystery at the centre of the film, Van Looy and De Pauw (via Strick) do a pretty great job of both keeping the audience on their toes with more twists, red herrings and revelations than you can shake a bloody knife at, but are also smart enough to use it as something a McGuffin for what the film is really about: the close but increasingly dysfunctional relationship between the men.   

The five guys are pretty perfectly cast and while they have nice chemistry with the women in the film (especially Rachel Taylor and Isabel Lucas), they play particularly brilliantly off one another. Karl Urban, in particular, is pretty damn terrific as the film's most charismatic but enigmatic presence, but all five (Urban, Eric Stonestreet, Wentworth Miller, Matthias Schoenaerts and James Marsden) do some of the best work of their career – even through the fittingly ripe dialogue and melodramatic emotions. Marsden's basically decent characters aside, they're unquestionably pretty horrible people, but the brilliant work by the director, the screenwriters and, perhaps most of all, the actors, make them surprisingly enjoyable to be around for a couple of hours.

Now, no one in their right mind would find The Loft to be a particularly great film, as it's way too silly, insubstantial and trashy to ever be that, but that doesn't mean it isn't a fun, compelling and trashy b-movie. It's probably not a date movie, though...