So it’s that time again; when films that were first promoted at festivals last year finally begin seeing the light of day. I first heard about The Belko Experiment when it was shown at the Toronto Film Festival along with a brace of other films that are now appearing. But it was the people behind it that really caught my attention. Written by James Gunn of Guardians of the Galaxy fame and by the director of the Wolf Creek film series, Greg McLean, how could I not be interested in this film?
Oh, and there will be some slight spoilers ahead. Just thought you should know.
The movie opens on what seems like a normal start to the day for most of the employees of Belko, even though some of the American employees notice that all the local Colombian workers are being sent home as soon as they reach the gates to their office building. Shortly after that every entrance and window is sealed. See, the workers of Belko were implanted with tracking devices when they were first hired, which are also, unknown to them of course, bombs. Four people are killed when the devices are initially activated, which makes everyone else think that there’s a shooter on the loose. Not long after the first deaths, a voice comes over the intercom system telling the 76 remaining employees that they have two hours to kill 30 of their number or as a consequence of their failure to comply, 60 of them will be killed. From that point on, human nature takes over and the body count begins to rise.
I should mention that I saw this with JeNee, who shares my sense of dark humor.
While The Belko Experiment won’t win any major awards it does keep you entertained throughout. Supposedly a commentary on the social politics of office workers, I really did not get that from watching it, as the movie was more about human nature and what happens when people are forced into a no-win situation. The acting was pretty solid from start to finish with Tony Goldwyn’s COO Barry Norris and Sean Gunn’s Marty making the biggest impressions, but for different reasons. Goldwyn’s character is preoccupied with trying to get as many of his workers home as possible but knows that a lot will die before the day ends. He doesn’t take joy in his choices and at times hates himself for what he does, but he fully understands that not everyone is going to survive. Gunn’s Marty though, is the light in what really is a very dark movie by cracking jokes and trying to help those around him stay positive. I mentioned JeNee earlier as there’s one point in the movie when things go from bad to worse incredibly quickly. During this point, JeNee and I had to desperately keep from busting out laughing as it was us and one other couple in the theater and we didn’t want to seem like we were complete psychos. But damn, it’s hard not to laugh your ass off when people’s heads are exploding left, right and centre and when some of the folks going ‘BOOM’ are hiding underneath tables and those tables then start hopping up and down.
The movie isn’t perfect as you never really find out exactly what’s going on or why Belko are running the experiment. The only thing that is revealed is that this was phase one of a much larger endeavor. Besides that, the only other bad thing is John C. McGinley’s character, as he is a man without a single redeeming quality. Although, arguably, it’s also pretty good, considering that McGinley is a great actor who seems to thrive on playing complete assholes and is in his absolute element here. Overall though, The Belko Experiment is brimming with wonderful nastiness thanks to its fantastic characterisation, twisted sense of humour and on target examination of human nature, all of which makes it whole lot of fun to watch. Jason Bonton