In ‘The Loft,’ cheating leads to trouble

“The Loft” is a prime example of the type of movies that are put into theaters during the down months leading up to the summer blockbuster season. These films, usually with modest box-office expectations, are released quietly in the springĀ  in hopes of making some money before heading off to pay TV, DVD/Blu-Ray land.

As such, “The Loft” is a decent effort, a mystery that effectively keeps the audience guessing while the story overwhelms the thin characters.

Erik Van Looy, who directed the original Belgium-made version of this film in 2008, titled simple “Loft,” gets another crack at this very adult thriller that is based on a screenplay by Bart De Pauw and Wesley Strick, the latter who among his 17 writing credits include “Wolf” in 1994 and “Arachnophobia” in 1990.

Karl Urban, who plays the current Doc “Bones” McCoy in the rebooted “Star Trek” series of movies, leads the cast as Vincent Stevens, an architect whose latest high-rise penthouse project includes a loft he has reserved for himself and four other friends. This loft is designed to be a place where these men can carry out their extramarital affairs and whatever other fantasies in which they might indulge.

This arrangement becomes a nightmare when a young woman is found dead on the bed, handcuffed to the bed post with her other free wrist slashed in an apparent suicide, or a murder made to look like a suicide. Since only five keys to the loft were issued — and the burglar alarm was shut off — only the five men had access to the place.

The men gather at the loft to try to solve the mystery and figure a way out of this mess. In addition to Vincent there are Chris Vanowen (James Marsden), a psychiatrist; Philip Trauner (Matthias Schoenaerts, reprising his role from the 2008 original film), half-brother of Chris and who has just recently married the daughter of a wealthy building contractor; Luke Secord (Wentworth Miller) and Marty Landry (Eric Stonestreet).

“The Loft” is non-linear, as it uses flashbacks to build the story and present possible suspects and motives in the woman’s death. In between the flashbacks are current-day scenes of each man being interrogated by a pair of police detectives, Huggins (Kristin Lehman) and Cohagen (Robert Wisdom).

While the script adeptly offers bits of the mystery puzzle, forcing the audience to pay attention, it provides little in presenting characters that are worth caring about. Urban’s Vincent clearly is a bad influence on his friends, a man who has no qualms about cheating on his wife Barbara (Valerie Cruz) and cynically issuing the keys to the loft during the reception following Philip’s wedding.

Of the four friends, Philip, who has a drug habit and seems nowhere near ready to settle down, is at first the only willing recipient of the key and use of the loft. Marty is the man who expresses crude and sexist views, especially when drunk, but seems to be just all talk.

Chris and Luke just go along with all this, trying to resist temptation. Of the men, Chris is the most sympathetic, striving to stay faithful to wife Allison (Rhona Mitra) despite a growing estrangement. His resolve is tested when he meets Anne Morris (Rachael Taylor), an assistant to a congressman and the sister of a former patient of Chris who committed suicide.

As a mystery, “The Loft” unfolds at a brisk and challenging pace, although once all is unraveled there are some plot holes. The result is a mildly entertaining movie that could have been masterful had the main characters not been so shady and unworthy of compassion.

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