ORION PICTURES / BH TILT (2017)

 

Director: Greg McLean

 

Starring: John Gallagher Jr., Tony Goldwyn, Adria Arjona, John C. McGinley, Melonie Diaz, Josh Brener, Michael Rooker

The brainchild of James Gunn, taking time from guarding the galaxy with weird characters, and directed by Aussie scare Mayor Greg McLean (of Wolf Creek notoriety) comes The Belko Experiment – a short, snappy feature set in a large office block in Bogotá, Colombia. I mention the location in passing, as it bears no real significance to the plot.

 

Working at the Belko Corporation are typical Monday to Friday employees – there’s the chirpy elders, ambitious executives, the lovebirds, the young up-and-comers and the creepy middle-aged types. A veritable smorgasbord of stereotypes.

Amongst these are the lovebirds, Mike (Gallagher Jr.) and his girlfriend Leandra (Arjona), who regularly meet for a sneaky kisses and lovey dovey business in her office. The rest of the staff shuffle in for their day and begin their routine and work and fun. Nobody seems to be too fazed by the new military security guards at the site entrance, aggressively searching all cars and turning the locals away. Fools. Also unfazed is the company’s newbie Dany (Diaz) who is given the HR spiel and casually reminded that all Belko employees are fitted with a CHIP IN THEIR SKULL to track them in case of kidnap. Reassuring.

 

It’s not long before it all falls into place as an unknown voice booms across the intercom that two people must die, otherwise the tracking devices in their necks will explode. Fiends. Coming good on their promise, the unseen menaces proceed to explain that if 30 people are not killed within a few hours, they will blow 60 heads apart. Cue pandemonium, team ups, good guys, bad guys, sexual offers and a game of hide and seek.

 

A 9-to-5 take on Battle Royale, the movie succeeds with its short runtime allowing the proceedings to begin right away, briefly giving us a look at the employees in their normal routine before the chaos takes over. There’s no way the movie could’ve gone on a minute longer. The first act is strong as the employees struggle to comprehend the situation and the alliances begin to take place, the middle act labours slightly as the good and bad cliques’ front up, and the third act is where the movie descends into bloodbath with intricate murders aplenty. As mentioned, the first act is by far the strongest, watching the fear and paranoia set in and the CEO Barry (Goldwyn) slowly begin to realise that there is no way other than mass death. After this the movie begins to become a senseless murder fest – sobbing parents have their brains blown out, defiant employees fare no better.

 

The movie’s key protagonist Mike attempts to be the voice of reason throughout the madness, but ultimately comes across as a bit of a pant wetter. His girlfriend Leandra is more bad ass, deciding to take the fight to the crazies rather than wait to die. John C. McGinley is hammier than a pigs privates as the strange murder enthusiast.

 

The movie is not for everyone, especially as it doesn’t really exist to tell much of a story. If you like gore, violence and exploding body parts you’ll be in for a treat. If you’re after a clever subtext, you’ll be sorely disappointed. The Belko Experiment has its moments where it steps out from mediocrity (and some admittedly cool kills) but in the end, doesn’t leave a huge impression. Entertaining for its runtime, but that’s about it.

July 18th 2017

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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