John Gallagher Jr. as Mike Milch
Tony Goldwyn as Barry Norris
Adria Arjona as Leandra Flores
John C. McGinley as Wendell Dukes
Melonie Diaz as Dany Wilkins
Luis David Sansans
I can see the studio meeting now:
Blumhouse Exec 1:
I can’t believe we have a James Gunn script! He’s famous!
Blumhouse Exec 2:
You mean the guy who did Scooby-Doo?
Blumhouse Exec 1:
Yeah, but he also did Guardians of the Galaxy!
Blumhouse Exec 2:
Do we even need to read it?
Idiot Exec 1 and 2 laugh loudly and are off to an overpriced brunch at the expense of the production budget of The Belko Experiment.
If anyone were to have read this they would know that 1) it makes no sense and 2) it’s been done before and better (and I guess worse). Basically, a bunch of office workers find themselves trapped in their company’s large, secluded building. They all work for Belko Industries. A voice comes on over the intercom and says that if they don’t start killing each other, then the company will set off bombs that they’ve implanted in everyone’s head. The last one to survive can go free.
I can definitely agree that this shockingly unpolished script got pushed through because of James Gunn’s byline. That aside, I actually thought the premise sounded interesting. The setup was solid, if a bit rushed. I was digging the introductions of the supporting cast. The office felt like a real office for at least, oh, 15 minutes. The movie really doesn’t allow us enough time to get to know the characters for the hook (how would your typical office hierarchy translate to a life or death situation) to actually mean anything. The movie veers very quickly into a type of movie we’ve all seen a million times.
Speaking of better movies, before I start to tear this movie up, I’m going to save everyone a bunch of time. If you have an impulse to watch this movie, turn on one of these instead – Circle (2015), Cube (1997), Saw (2004).
Now, for those who want to go on, let’s talk about the fact that the movie makes no fucking sense. If you went on a job interview to be a mid-level office drone in remote Bogata and they said, “Hey, also, we’ll need to do invasive surgery on the back of your head to implant a tracker,” wouldn’t you re-think that opportunity?
While I definitely didn’t love this movie I didn’t hate it as much as you did. There were the beginnings of….something. I found the CEO Barry (Tony Goldwyn) a much more compelling and believable character than our squishy do-gooder protagonist Mike (John Gallagher Jr). While I am fairly certain Barry is supposed to be the de facto villain of the piece (outside of the Evil Corporation) he was really the only one making calm logical decisions. In fact, the whole time I was kind of wishing he ran my office. Whenever Barry is on screen trying to convince everyone that a calm orderly slaughter is necessary to minimize casualties the movie threatens to get interesting. Sadly after about five minutes of trying to figure things out it becomes a free for all of imagination-free mayhem.
So going back to the similar movies I mentioned like Circle, Cube and Saw, I can think of a couple elements these movies have in common that made these movies cooler. First, the ending was always surprising. Do you remember over a decade ago how you felt when Jigsaw rose up in the final sequence of Saw? How about when you realize that there is a way out of the Cube? Great stuff. In Belko they just drag him out into a shed. The other and more significant thing about these movies was that there was a way to survive. In Circle, they actually figured out how the voting worked and it was wild; the ending was a suspenseful WTF thrill ride! Man, that movie cost like $50k and it was better than this. All this to say, the Belko script should not have been greenlit, but boy I bet that Santa Monica brunch was fantastic.
Since we give 0 shits about spoilers here at P&G let’s talk about that ending. Essentially in the final 10 minutes of the film all of the remaining leads are arbitrarily and unceremoniously killed off in a sequence so lazy I can’t believe the studio didn’t demand a reshoot. I am sure there is some kind of thematic reasoning I could find if I squinted hard enough, but frankly it just isn’t worth it. So of course, despite it being incredibly unlikely, we are left with the squishy white-bread do-gooder as our Sole Survivor. Couldn’t have seen that coming eh? But wait! What about the big reveal?! Who was the mastermind, and what was their nefarious purpose? That is something I definitely couldn’t have predicted. Mostly because my mind was incapable of conceiving of an ending so banal, so anti-climactic, so tone-deaf that it would have been better had the theater caught fire forcing us all to flee into the night before witnessing the final reel.
Basically Gallagher Jr. is dragged in front of some science types who explain they are contractors who conduct social experiments for various governments (including our own) and this was just another one of them. Wamp wamp. They proceed to ask him such probing questions as “How do you feel? A. Happy, B. Sad, or D. Nuetral.” After sitting through the Belko Experiment I’m going to go with secret answer D. Ripped Off. 1 out of 5 Bloody Staplers