Review: James Gunn’s The Belko Experiment
By: Scott Muller
On a weekend where I had the opportunity to see the absolutely amazing-looking Logan, the live-action version of a movie on which my wife and I themed our wedding (Beauty and the Beast), or the really fun-looking remake of King Kong, I chose to see the A-lister-free The Belko Experiment. Since – as I’ve learned – some folks have short attention spans, I’ll do what I usually do and give you a quick synopsis and review and then get to my full-length, fun and exciting, and relatively spoiler-free review.
Short Synopsis for Those with a Short Attention Span
A group of studio execs probably sat in a room and said, “People liked The Purge, and they liked Office Space…what say we take those two movies and throw in the building from The Raid: Redemption? Hell, we’ll even get that guy John C. McGinley to be in the movie! He was IN Office Space! Sound good? Great, let’s get lunch!”
Quick Review for Those with a Short Attention Span
Um, yeah. I won’t say this movie is wholly bad, it was just insanely predictable and sorta lazy. It’s violent, it’s funny in parts, and is relatively well shot. It’s also got a pretty clever soundtrack, especially the opening montage. I would score the film overall a six out of ten.
Longer Review for Folks with Longer Attention Spans
The Belko Experiment focuses on Belko Industries, a company in Bogota, Columbia, with a relatively well thought-out purpose: helping American companies set up shop in South America. Unfortunately, the 80 employees that work at Belko aren’t as well thought out. Instead, you have the typical stereotypes all lined up: the Jim Halpert-esque nice guy; the pack of alpha males; the stereotypical sassy gay guy; the lovable dork (with an ant farm, to boot); the really nice older lady that you know isn’t going to make it; the fat guy you know isn’t going to make it, the wacky stoner; the plucky female sidekick; the weak-kneed coward; and the nameless, faceless folks that you know are murder-death-kill fodder. They’re all here with little backstory or any reason for you to care about them. As a matter of fact, if you go to the IMDb page for this movie, it’s funny that they didn’t even bother to name most of the people. I realize you can’t script a backstory for 80 people, but would it be difficult to just say, “You’re Sally, you’re Tom, you’re Irving, and you’re Geraldine?” That’s just lazy. A couple characters are “fleshed out” by them saying, “I have kids,” but that’s about the extent of it.
As long as we’re on the topic of being lazy, I’d like to point out the plot. Now, I’m not the type of guy who tries to guess the ending of a movie. I was just as surprised by the ending of The Sixth Sense as most. When I read Gone Girl, the twist had me amazed. However, you would have to be the dullest person on planet Earth to not figure out who’s going to make it within the first five minutes of the film. That’s about as far into spoilers as I’m going to go…and I’m really not spoiling anything.
Okay, back to the movie. As we join the folks at Belko, we realize something is slightly amiss, as shadowy military types aren’t allowing certain employees in. Eventually, after everyone arrives to work, a voice on the intercom says that the 80 people in the building have to choose two people to kill or four will be killed instead. At first, the employees stay calm and think it’s a prank. Well, it would be a pretty short movie if that was the case…and it isn’t. The mysterious voice continues through the “experiment” by making more violent requests of the group in the building. That’s about as far as I can without “spoiling” anything.
I did actually like some things about the movie. The movie is pretty violent, but not insanely so, and some of it is actually pretty clever. It also has a few funny moments as well, sort of like The Cabin in the Woods (a horror-comedy hybrid that’s far better than this movie). The soundtrack is also excellent.
Lastly, and this is pretty odd, I think what happens in this movie is pretty close to what would actually happen in this particular situation. The alpha males behave pretty much like you’d expect, while the nerdier folks try to noodle out ways to escape their predicament. I know that’s a bizarre observation, but if you see the movie, you’ll see what I mean.
That last comment leads me to one of my big pet peeves about movies like this. Why can’t, for once, a movie present a cast of characters (especially in a case like this, where there are no A-list folks, just a lot of B- and C-listers like Michael Rooker, Brent Sexton, Tony Goldwyn, and John Gallagher, Jr.) equally without making it blatantly obvious who will be standing at the end? This movie had the opportunity to really have the audience picking the person they most relate to and get behind them, but instead, it stuck to the same old path that every horror/violence porn movie follows. It’s sort of like The Hunger Games. I think the books and movies would have been so much better if there was actually some mystery as to who would survive. On a humorous note, my buddy, Desmond, made a prediction about who the last two survivors would be literally 10 seconds before he was proven (very violently) wrong. I actually laughed out loud at how amazingly timed it was. This movie has a pretty weak surprise or two up its sleeve, but nothing that’s going to make you care more one way or the other.
Finally, I will say that this movie made me think about what I would do in this situation. If I was trapped in a building with 79 of my coworkers and we were forced to do what the folks in the movie were forced to do, what would I do? I thought about that for about a minute or so before I went back to thinking exactly how much wasted potential this movie had and the ludicrous endgame it applied. I was going to end this review now, but let me take a second to run this by you. This is the closest I’ll get to a spoiler, so scram if you don’t want to read it…I’ll wait.
Okay, the endgame of the movie is the “final stage.” In it, the disembodied voice says that the person with the most kills at the end will win his or her freedom, but that’s totally not true! The person who gets the last kill would win, don’t you think?!? I could technically hide in a closet the entire time and let the homicidal maniac kill everyone and then just kill that person and I’d win…right? Ugh. I’m so pissed about how the folks responsible for this movie didn’t think things out at all…except for the soundtrack; they got that pretty close to perfect.
So, as you read in the beginning of the review, this movie gets a six out of ten. It was a fun way to spend 88 minutes, but I wouldn’t want to spend another 88 minutes seeing it again. The movie was okay for what it was, I guess, but it could’ve been up there with relatively clever horror movies like The Cabin in the Woods, Final Destination, and Saw, but it seemed to settle for being in that second or third tier of movies with the likes of the Final Destination and Saw sequels. I guess, if nothing else, I learned how to injury, maim, or bludgeon annoying coworkers with at least 15 different pieces of office equipment. That’s a plus, right?