The Belko Experiment – 3 out of 5
Even the person with the best temperament at work has had a moment or two where they’ve fanaticized about doing something painful to a fellow coworker. Maybe bubbly Susan in accounting who has the candy dish on her desk and likes to show pictures of her cats is mad because she always seems to be the person who has to brew a new pot of coffee or maybe David in I.T. is tired of having to fix Mike’s laptop because the guy can’t stop looking at porn—either way, we’ve all reached our breaking points at our jobs and our minds have drifted towards the violent. The Belko Experiment seems to be a movie that is built on the idea of office-based injuries and death and it is written by a man I truly adore; James Gunn. So, is this movie more Battle Royale or that scene in Office Space where they destroy the printer?
|Sean Gunn is in this and that is nothing but points in the movies favor!|
One morning in Bogotá, Colombia, Mike Milch (John Gallagher Jr.) arrives at his job at Belko Industries, a non-profit organization, to see the local employees being turned away by some unknown security company. Brushing it off like the rest of the transplant employees, everyone tries to go about their day and do the whole “business as usual” routine. Mike sneaks a moment with his girlfriend; Leandra (Adria Arjona), after she has to deal with the leers of the awkward executive Wendell Dukes (John C. McGinley), and a new girl named Dany Wilkins (Melonie Diaz) is getting started at the company. Without warning, the entire building goes into lockdown mode and all exits are cut off with giant steel shutters. A voice on the intercom tells them that they must kill each other or the implants that were put in their heads (originally explained to them as a tracking device if they were ever kidnapped by the local criminals) would explode. Quickly, Chief Operating Officer Barry Norris (Tony Goldwyn) tries to keep everyone calm but once it’s realized that whoever has them is in complete control, their only recourse might be to comply and do exactly what the voice told them to do.
|Talk all the trash you want about fast food workers but at least they don't have to|
deal with this.
My initial expectations for The Belko Experiment was that the film was going to be Battle Royale but in an office setting. My imagination lit up thinking about all the improvised implements of destruction that would be taking place and how much carnage would unfold across the screen. Even better was the fact that James Gunn, the man behind my treasured Guardians of the Galaxy and its sequel, was the man who wrote the film. Needless to say, my hopes were high for this one but what I found, instead, was a film that is never truly bad but never seems like it is trying to do anything that remotely good either.
|He's on the lookout for J.D. so he can whistle at him, call him a girl's name |
and be an antagonist towards him but deep down have a respect
for him as he tries to teach him lessons in life and in the medical.
The film does a great job with the characters and is able of providing every shortcut development trick needed to establish who they are, what they stand to lose, and what trajectory their characters are on. The performers also do a great job of giving them life and making them feel like they have backstory to them even though we barely get to see any of that explored. The main problem with this film is the writing and how it followed a path that felt too narrow and offered no real surprises as it went to completion. The people who you think are going to be the rational “let’s not kill anyone” types are exactly that and the one who you know are going to be the ones who get the murder boners and are just a little too ready to kill their coworkers end up being that. There’s very few moments that catch you off guard as the film seems to be steadfast on a track and is slowly chugging along towards its inevitable conclusion. Sure, there was a moment or two where a character died earlier than I expected or just plain didn’t survive to the end like I expected but, beyond that, you pretty much know the outcome and arc of every character you see.
|Two alumni from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.|
Another thing that bummed me out about the film is its lethargic pacing, unimaginative kills and weak gore. The story wastes no time in introducing characters and getting the conflict established but then spends a long time with the moral and ethical debate over what should be done when they are told they have to kill each other. This argument is fine but waiting as long as it did took away greatly from the potential and promises this film made with said conflict. Even worse was how the film decides against having unique and creative kills that are reflective of the story’s setting. The company has a pool of 80 employees so it was a given that most of them are going to die by the explosive charge in their head but nearly almost all of the rest are killed by firearms.
|"You feeling lucky, punk? Don't let my gun I am pointing at you sway|
the answer to that question."
Guns felt like such a lazy choice when you have a location that has a paper shredder. Sure, a few die from other means but they never felt as satisfying because you watch dozens die in ways that were all essentially the same. Finally, I thought at the very least that this movie would throw out some gratuitous gore to break up any potential monotony and while it does have some blood here and there, the gore sorta felt tame to me. Watching almost all of the death scenes play out in nearly the same way really took away from the gory moments that are provided because it felt like you just saw it earlier. This double whammy is made all the more frustrating when two of the main antagonists die in nearly identical ways and then the director Greg McLean tries to make one feel like it was more important because it was the worst of the antagonists dying. These elements weren’t just a disappointment because it felt like it wasn’t utilizing its setting and potential but rather they made this film feel just sorta serviceable.
|The dudes from Scanners are attacking!|
The Belko Experiment has a lot of potential but never really felt like it was trying to capitalize on it or even tries to make something remotely unique. Hell, even the ending felt like it was farted out as it attempts to give you a twist and a mystery but, after what I just saw, the twist is pretty obvious and the mystery just felt like that was put in because an actual explanation would have been work. As much as I love James Gunn (and I know I’ve already said that several times) this film felt like he just cranked it out over the course of a weekend and released it for production. I know I’m being harsh on it but for all the promise this film had, ending up with something that is only kinda serviceable in the moment is a big downer. It’s a fairly decent movie that never gets boring and the performances are really good but, with a few tweaks and adjustments, this film could have been so much better and packed a bigger punch.