Hot Take: Doesn’t really make you think. Not a lot of fun. If it’s aim were social commentary, it’s the sophomore college essay equivalent of such an exercise.
James Gunn gets a lot of credit for Guardians of the Galaxy and the work done there. Somehow people have completely forgotten he’s responsible for Movie 43, the 2013 Golden Raspberry Award winner for Worst Picture, Worst Screenplay and Worst Director. Gunn is also responsible for 2006’s Slither which is one of the goriest horror comedy films of the last 15 years. It feels like Gunn — the film’s screenwriter — is going for the same vibe in The Belko Experiment but with some layer of social consciousness that gets completely lost in the gory sauce.
The Belko Experiment takes place at an American office building in Bogotá, Colombia where U.S. workers are relocated to do some sort of office work (probably lots of TPS reports) and function like any other office with the exception that it’s located in a remote location in another country. When the locals who work at the office are directed to return home by Belko’s new beefed up security team (complete with automatic weapons and camo outfits), something appears to be up. The office really gets worried when a voice comes over the intercom declaring that there will be dire consequences if 2 of the 80 workers are not dead within 30 minutes. Well, some of the office worries. The rest think it’s a prank.
When the 30 minutes are up, heads begin to explode, literally. We find out all of the workers at Belko Industries have had a tracker inserted in their head and someone has detonated these trackers in 4 of the workers. The next announcement is more dire — kill 30 or 60 will be executed — and that’s when the “fun” begins. Bolstered by a strong ensemble cast of actors and actresses who’ve worked well in supporting roles previously, no one shines above all others in the film. That’s both a blessing and a curse as the film could use a focal point… or even some focus. Instead, the order of the day is blood and gore as office politics go way of murder and mayhem. Unfortunately, as the movie heads in this direction, any social relevance is lost as the movie becomes about blood and guts rather quickly and while the movie teases a pondering of important social questions about the value of life, it’s just an excuse to watch massive head explosions on a grand scale.
The Belko Experiment is missing something. Maybe it’s a point or maybe it’s a severe lack of character development with a cast that really is capable of more than they do here. At 88 minutes, it’s not like the movie is crunched for time but somehow because it spends most of its time exploding heads, 88 minutes actually feels way too long. Like a middling office worker who can’t find his or her way up the corporate ladder, this movie is all about not living up to its potential.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
- The B Team
You’ll recognize a lot of faces here. John Gallagher Jr. (10 Cloverfield Lane), Tony Goldwyn (Divergent), John C. McGinley (Office Space, Scrubs), Melonie Diaz (Fruitvale Station), Josh Brener (Silicon Valley), Michael Rooker (The Walking Dead) and Abraham Benrubi (The Finest Hours, ER) are the most recognizable and the group knows how to be part of an ensemble cast. There’s chemistry here within the confines of the material they have to work with.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- It Doesn’t Really Say Anything
What does The Belko Experiment really say about society? In short, nothing. The film is just an excuse for some crude effects and some close-up shots of everyday people toying around in what’s left of some of the heads that explode.
- How Can an 88 Minute Movie Be Too Long?
Well, The Belko Experiment pulls it off.
- There’s Even a Sequel Tease
Walking out of the movie, the biggest fear for this movie is that it could become the next The Purge.