“The Belko Experiment” is a film that quickly tests its audience’s patience.
Billed as a cross between “The Office” and “Battle Royale,” “Experiment” offers more bloodshed like the former and less biting humor from the later. It’s a film that takes what could have been an intriguing premise and delivers a nasty and at times almost unwatchable bit of cinematic trash that wastes a rather talented cast.
“The Belko Experiment” takes place in Bogota, Colombia, with 80 employees working at a seemingly typical 9-to-5 job for an American corporation.
The mundane job takes a different twist when a mysterious voice announces that all the employees have 30 minutes to kill two employees or face consequences.
At first, the staff members – which include the carefree Mike (John Gallagher Jr.), the recently divorced Leandra (Adria Arjona) and the newest employee Dany (Melonie Diaz) – take it as a prank gone wrong.
But when employees start dying from explosions caused by chips installed in the back of their heads, which at the time of their employment they were told were being implanted as a means of protecting them from being kidnapped in a foreign country, everyone realizes that they are trapped in a twisted social experiment.
Watching these people turn on one another in a “Lord of the Flies” manner is something that might have worked in the right hands.
There are plenty of openings for social commentary on how people react in high-pressure situations and what they are willing to do when faced with the prospects of kill or be killed.
Unfortunately, James Gunn’s screenplay doesn’t tackle those issues. Instead, it gets darker and slimier as the whole thing progresses – with the characters no longer characters, but just part of a faceless body count that keeps piling up.
The biggest example is how Gunn manipulates one person’s plight throughout the film, seemingly setting this person up for something bigger to expand the plot. The promise of that story thread is never realized, with the person disposed of in such a quick manner that it’s frustrating to think the film spent so much time setting up the character only to have them get killed like that.
Director Greg McLean seems to be more concerned with the bloodshed and less concerned with character development, wasting a cast that also includes Tony Goldwyn, John C. McGinley and Michael Rooker.
It’s kind of hard to care about the plights of these individuals when the characters feel like disposable cliches that could have easily been interchanged.
With a little more development and a little better focus, “The Belko Experiment” might have been worth your time.
Instead, it’s a missed opportunity that doesn’t deserve a second glance.