A brutal yet entertaining thriller that doesn't quite live up to its potential.
The Belko Experiment is an intriguing action thriller with a very good premise. However, whilst solidly entertaining most of the time, the film hardly scratches the surface of its more interesting themes which are introduced but not fully explored.
The film follows the employees, mainly Mike (John Gallagher Jr.), Leandra (Adria Ajorna) and Barry (Tony Goldwyn), of Belko Industries’ Colombian office. What starts out as another normal working day takes a sharp turn for the worst as co-workers find themselves pitted against each other in a lethal battle for survival. Trapped in the workplace and left at the mercy of their mysterious captor, the office workers of Belko are told that they must kill one another, or face the consequences.
In terms of performances, the three lead actors do a pretty good job. Tony Goldwyn in particular is the stand out as the leader of Belko’s ‘defectors’ with his character, Barry, feeling more of a threat as the film goes on. There is a solid performance as well from John C. McGinley who plays Wendall, a pervy co-worker somewhat obsessed with Leandra. His uncomfortable appearances lead to some great confrontations later in the film. The only real disappointment in terms of actors is that Michael Rooker did not have bigger role despite being featured in much of the film’s marketing.
The film dips in and out of being heart-pumpingly entertaining and, at times, more of a drag. However, as the killing gets more intense in the film’s latter half, these duller moments are few and far between, which makes for an excellent final half hour.
The Belko Experiment does pose some moral dilemmas by having the characters questioning who lives and who dies as well as asking if you can justify the killing of the few to save the many? The scenes in which these questions are tackled make for some very tense moments that are by far the film’s strongest points. Unfortunately, these issues are explored only a few times before we return to scenes of exposition or bloodshed that aren’t anywhere near as thought provoking.
With regards to bloodshed, it’s worth mentioning that this film is indeed very violent. Whilst it’s not as grotesque as many have made it out to be, it still offers some incredibly brutal moments that will no doubt have some audience members cringing in their seats.
The movie is filled with jokes, which is fine for the first half as it keeps the film entertaining in its duller parts. As the plot progresses to some dark and gruesome place though, these jokes feel more and more out of place. This takes away from the film’s more serious scenes, which is a shame as it seems The Belko Experiment would have made a good black comedy if they had committed to that tone.
Overall, The Belko Experiment had the premise and the potential to be much better than it was, but that’s not to say it’s a bad movie by any means. Those looking for a quick, brutal thriller will be satisfied with what this movie has to offer.
The Belko Experiment, directed by Greg McLean, is distributed in the UK by Vertigo Releasing. Certificate 18.