The Belko Experiment hinders interesting premise

Tyler Manning

I am a massive fan of James Gunn’s films. He has a distinct writing style and vision that I am really fond of. Even when tackling a pre-established project (such as Guardians of the Galaxy), he brings his own ideas into the work that enhances the project overall. With that in mind, when I saw the trailer to his writing and producing project The Belko Experiment, I could not help but be excited.

The Belko Experiment is a film that centers around a company in Columbia. One day, all of the workers of this company are locked in their office and told that they must kill 30 of their coworkers. If they refuse, 60 will die.

When thinking about this movie a week after my viewing, I can honestly say that I have no strong feelings about it either way. To me, it is just an okay movie that could have been great if the film’s writer also directed it.

The positive aspects of the movie were the performances and the premise of the story. The film stars primarily unknown actors, with the possible exceptions of Michael Rooker and John C. McGinley, and for the most part all the cast does a great job. There wasn’t a single performance that felt out of place or bad. The actors interacted with one another in a way that was believable and kept me engaged in the narrative for the most part.

Another aspect I enjoyed of the movie was the premise. I like that the film explored the different reactions that would come out from an incident liked this. The film constantly questioned whether morality is dependent on one’s current situation or is morality something that should be a constant no matter the circumstance. The premise was also great at providing genuine tension throughout the movie in a way that felt organic. It’s nice to see a movie that is an original idea backed behind someone with a distinct writing style.

Tony Goldwyn and John C. McGinley in The Belko Experiment (2016).

As for what I did not like mainly came down to tone. Gunn is known for pairing unconventional tones together and working them in a way that oddly works. In his film Super (a drastically underrated movie), the film’s tone is sad yet darkly funny at the same time. You can even see this Guardians of the Galaxy. He goes for this again in this film; however, it does not quite work as well for me as it had in his previous work. The tonal changes were noticeable and pulled me out of the movie.

I noticed this flaw in the film’s opening. It shifts from a grim, unnerving tone to one of levity and then back in the span of five minutes. The moments of levity aren’t placed well in the overall range of the story and consequently it felt awkward and inconsistent.

The film also suffered from focus issues. Certain characters are given screen time for no apparent reason. One of the film’s three main protagonists is completely useless to the point that I questioned why even establish her character at all. This movie could have benefitted greatly from cutting those characters out entirely and just focusing on the two protagonists that actually matter to the story.

Some are saying that this movie is awful and I can see why; however, to me I would be denying myself if I were to say that I did not have some enjoyment out of this film. The original feel to the story, interesting premise, and satisfactory performances lead to me be okay with the film but not so much that I can overlook the film’s apparent flaws.

Rating: 5.5/10

Still out in local theaters