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The Loft: Sleazy, Dreary Whodunit-Thriller
Despite's its potentially absorbing premise, there's very little to like about Erik Van Looy's stylish but rather lazy whodunit-thriller, The Loft. A remake of a 2008 Flemish film of the same name – which was also directed by the Belgian filmmaker– The Loft lacks character, intelligence and the kind of suspense that can allow an audience to invest.
On paper, the plot is simple but intriguing; five married men and close friends decide to pool their money together to purchase a modern loft in the city as a bachelor pad that they can call their own, where they can bring their mistresses and one-night stands.
However, their school-boy excitement is quickly short-lived when Vincent (Urban), Chris (Marsden), his brother Phillip (Schoenaerts), Marty (Stonestreet) and Luke (Miller) are confronted with a dead body; a woman chained to the bed, naked and lying face-down in a pool of her own blood.
Soon, paranoia rips through the group of friends and a testy police interrogation unfolds a series of tiresome and confusing flashbacks as each tenant begins to tell his own version of the story.
The Loft may be stylish and easy on the eye, but it's also slightly absurd, thoughtless and difficult to follow. Told through a series of sloppily-written flashbacks, the main problem is that it presents the five main characters as a group of philandering imbeciles and gives you no reason to root for or even empathise with on any level. It's unashamedly sleazy and, at times, carries the air of a cheap erotic thriller.
This is not to mention the never-ending gaps in the logic or the fact that the central crux of the film – the mystery of the murder – is quickly lost sight of.
The only semi-redeeming factor is that the acting isn't all that bad and its largely talented cast deserved more – though Eric Stonestreet (of Modern Family fame) delivers a bizarrely over-the-top- performance that threatens to undermine even that.
It's only really the aesthetics that keep The Loft from being completely detestable; the tone of the cinematography is fitting and the metallic-grey hues work well in creating a cold, aloof sense – but that simply isn't enough to cover up the many cracks.
Van Looy's 2008 original holds the record for being the most successful Flemish film at the box office – and was made for less than half the budget of its contorted Hollywood adaptation – but this horribly misconceived remake might well damage the reputation of a good director. Shame.
What can you say about the seemingly unstoppable force that is Nicolas Cage that hasn’t been said before? A magnet for the most troubled, muddled and just generally exasperating films to hit cinemas in the last five years, his latest work in USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage does nothing to change his fortunes.
Despite being based on one a true story that has all the makings of a war epic, the Mario Van Peebles-directed USS Indianapolis bleeds all and any gravitas and emotion out of its incredibly dramatic source material.
The story goes as thus: the eponymous US Navy cruiser delivered the first parts of the atomic bomb that would go on to devastate Hiroshima, before being torpedoed by the Japanese navy, leaving some 300 of the 1000-plus crewmen dead and the rest stranded in shark-infested waters. Said sharks, along with dehydration and salt water poisoning, leave just over 300 survivors to be rescued.
At the centre of the ensuing hubbub is Cage’s Captain McVay, who many, very unreasonably, blame for the death of the 700 or so victims – so you see, it’s a very complex story, but one that very quickly descend into and exercise on how not to make a war film.
The occasional laughable CGI aside, Cage is oddly sedate, bordering on placid, in his role – yes, the central character is possibly the flattest element of the film, while seasoned actors, Tom Sizemore and Thomas Jane, are given little to chew on in their respective roles.
While starting exactly as one would expect a war film to, the wreckage part of the film turns into cheap disaster movie, before turning into a courtroom drama in the final act. It’s a muddle of a film that fails to really drum to the beat of McVay’s potentially brilliant arc as a firm commander that eventually buckles under the unjust pressure he receives back at home.
Bad CGI, a mammoth two hour-plus running time and Nic Cage can be forgiven, but what’s at the heart of this film’s mess is the script. Jumping from event to event, plotline to plotline, at a whim, with Cage’s soft murmured speech used to pave over the transitions, USS Indianapolis’s pacing is that of a film hurrying to stuff as many ideas and threads as possible – expect that’s not the case. Van Peebles tries so hard to build the layers of an epic, when, actually, all he needed to do was tell this simple but stirring story as it is.
Adapted from Paula Hawkins’ hit debut novel of the same name, The Girl on the Train doesn’t translate all that well on the big screen. The story – a complex web of violence and betrayal – falls flat thanks to a flimsy, lifeless script that lacks the character of the original source material.
The story is centred on Rachel (Blunt); a depressed, alcoholic divorcee, who spends her days riding the train to New York to a job she no longer has. The train, which she boards twice a day, also passes by her old home; a place she once shared with her ex-husband, Tim (Theroux), who has recently become a father with his new wife, Anna (Fergusson). Saddened by the life she once led and lost, Rachel likes to spend her time on the train imagining how the others live, and becomes infatuated with what she believes to be the perfect romance between her ex-husband’s neighbours, Scott Hipwell (Evans) and wife Megan (Bennett).
Drawn in by their seemingly blissful relationship, Megan soon becomes obsessed with the couple and starts spying on them for a few seconds each day. However, when she witnesses Megan in the arms of another man, Rachel decides to take matters into her own hands, only to find herself waking up the next day bloodied and bruised with no recollection of what happened the night before - and with Megan missing.
Drawing comparisons to David Fincher’s Gone Girl – minus the intelligent script and the gripping suspense – the story’s biggest problem lies with the screenplay which comes across as unfocused. Neglecting to fully-realise and flesh-out its characters, audiences – especially those who haven’t read the book – will struggle to connect to the people on the screen, who are either dull or helplessly cartoonish. Using one too many flashbacks, the back-and-forth jumps don’t do much for the story’s cohesiveness, while the choppy pacing doesn’t help either.
Despite the efforts of Blunt, who works hard to keep her character compelling, what was considered by many as a literary phenomenon, has translated into a bland and a by-the-books thriller which not only fails to capture the essence of the novel, but disappoints on all other fronts as well.