Oh, what a great movie this could have been.
In what’s been described with mild accuracy as “Office Space” meets “Battle Royale,” “The Belko Experiment” is a bloody, gruesome and hyper violent exercise in indie cinema with an abundance of missed potential. Instead of striving for a masterpiece of comedy or a clever critique on workplace hierarchy and office politics, director Greg McLean and writer James Gunn instead opt for a disappointing, unimaginative bloodbath. It’s a cruelly savage tale of massacre and slaughter with no heft or meaning, just lots of blood.
What a letdown.
The plot is straightforward and unoriginal, and the film relies on its white collar world setting as the only mark of creativity. In a sick and twisted social experiment, an office full of 80 American employees are trapped inside their corporate high rise headquarters in Bogotá, Colombia. They must commit a certain number of murders per hour at the behest of an unknown voice broadcasting over the loudspeaker in the building. An all-out war soon ensues as the office becomes a splatter-filled playground of carnage in a contest for the survival of the fittest.
Movie like this are always a bit fun to watch (“The Hunger Games,” “The Condemned,” “The Running Man”) and I understand that nonstop violence can sometimes be a fun escape, but this movie misses the mark in a big way. For films like this to be truly compelling, the characters have to be sympathetic, driven and relatable in their will to survive and their eagerness to become murderers. It’s not the fault of the actors either, as there are some decent performances from John Gallagher Jr., Melonie Diaz and Adria Arjona, with Tony Goldwyn and John C. McGinley adding the best turns as two bosses gone rogue. Here we just get to watch as shallow, thinly scripted office workers are shot, stabbed, impaled, torn apart by hatchets, kicked to death, burned alive, and have their necks broken, all in a frantic assembly line fashion.
There are a couple of inspired ways that some of the associates meet the demise, including one guy who has his brains bashed in by a tape dispenser and several others getting the ultimate surprise of having their heads explode all over the break room. This is more of a straight up horror gore fest rather than a thoughtful or fun movie, and I left extremely disappointed in this colossal waste of potential.
“The Belko Experiment” is little more than dumbed down carnage that’s being marketed to educated genre fans and as a result, the project fails.