The Belko Experiment

September 5, 2017

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...an inventively gory, frequently funny thrill ride that's just the thing to kick back with at the end of a long week in the rat race.
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The Belko Experiment

Travis Johnson
Year: 2016
Rating: MA15+
Director: Greg McLean
Distributor: Rialto
Released: September 21, 2017
Running Time: 88 minutes
Worth: $15.00

FilmInk rates movies out of $20 — the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth

…an inventively gory, frequently funny thrill ride that’s just the thing to kick back with at the end of a long week in the rat race.

The American staff at the Colombian office of Belko Industries find their workday quickly descending into bloody anarchy when they are sealed inside their office building and a disembodied voice over the PA instructs them to kill a certain number of their fellow employees – or else a greater number will be killed in their stead. What first seems to be a macabre joke turns out to be anything but – not only are there armed guards waiting outside, ready to shoot anyone who makes a break for freedom, but every employee’s surgically implanted anti-kidnapping GPS device turns out to have an explosive component. It isn’t long before battle lines are drawn, office supplies are being put to creative and violent use, and it becomes apparent that there’s only going to be one survivor. It’s all very Lord of the Filing Cabinets.

The Belko Experiment could have been a pretty standard, if inventively gory, riff on Battle Royale, but in the hands of Greg McLean (Wolf Creek, Jungle), working from a script by James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy), it’s a savage satire on modern office culture and life at the coalface of late capitalism. Never has the full horror of the term “human resources” been so apparent. The characters here are product to be used and disposed of, and no matter what efforts they go to to drag themselves to the top of the (corpse) pile, that’s all they are. Occasionally McLean hammers his metaphors home a little too hard – the opening shots of chicken in cages and meat being cooked on the ramshackle streets of Bogota, drawing parallels between our characters and other living things unlucky enough to be considered commodities, work; the ant farm on one of the office desks not so much. However, we mustn’t grumble too much about the lack of subtlety in a movie about a cross-cubicle all-in massacre.

Still, that’s a pretty bleak thesis we’re working with, but it’s wrapped in a brisk, bloodily entertaining story. There are some pretty resourceful humans for us to root for here, too – John Gallagher Jr’s office nice guy, Melonie Diaz’s new girl on the job, Sean Gunn’s stoner conspiracy theorist, Michael Rooker’s resourceful janitor. There are also risible villains who rise quickly to the top of the food chain and will do anything to stay there, chief among them Tony Goldwin’s COO, who pursues a murderous and entirely selfish agenda while paying lip service to the greater good (management, am I right?), and the great John C. McGinley’s office creeper turned brutal henchman. The fun is in seeing who is resourceful enough to stay alive without descending into savagery – and, of course, who heeds the call of the wild and begins chopping up their lunchroom buddies with abandon. There are few surprises, but plenty of satisfaction of the “I knew that guy was gonna crack!” variety.

The Belko Experiment‘s final destination is never in any doubt, and its big “reveal”, if it can be called that, is nothing we haven’t seen before (The Cabin in the Woods might be the most recent high profile example), but it doesn’t really matter. What we have here is an inventively gory, frequently funny thrill ride that’s just the thing to kick back with at the end of a long week in the rat race. Just don’t go getting any ideas.

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