The Belko Experiment

The Belko Experiment
Starring John Gallagher Jr., Tony Goldwyn, Adria Arjona, John C. McGinley
Directed by Greg McLean

The Story:
In Bogota, there's an American company known as Belko Industries, where the employees have been for over a year.  They all have implants in their heads that are supposed to be used if they're kidnapped in order to be rescued.  Employee Mike (John Gallagher Jr.) notices that there's a new security team who turns away the local employees (since they don't have chips in their heads), and after a few minutes or normal working, the building goes into lockdown.

A voice comes over the intercom telling the employees that they need to kill two co-workers, or those in charge will do it.  At first, they think it's a game, but then people start dying when their implants go off, causing their heads to explode from the inside.

Now in a panic, they're instructed that they need to kill thirty co-workers, or sixty of them will die at random.  Mike and a few of his fellow co-workers try to find a peaceful way out of it, while his boss (Tony Goldwyn) gathers a bunch of power-hungry workers who all decide that the only way to get out of this is to kill.  However, will that be enough to gain their freedom, or will no one make it out alive?

The Synopsis:
The Milgram Experiment. 
July 1961, psychologist Stanley Milgram made a social experiment to test human obedience when given orders by an authority figure.  He set up three positions - the Experimenter (the authority), the Teacher (the subject) and the Learner (the volunteer).  The Learner was working with the Experimenter, without the Teacher knowing.  The Learner was (at least to the Teacher) hooked up to an electric shock generator, which would give a jolt from 15 volts to potentially lethal 450 volts.  The Teacher would read a list of paired words to the Learner, who was to memorize them.  If the Learner failed, the Teacher would give a shock increasing in voltage for each incorrect answer.  The Learner was never really shocked, by the Teacher didn't know that, and a tape recorder would play prerecorded sounds of agony to create the illusion of the Learner getting shocked.  If the Teacher hesitated, the Experimenter would insist they continue, using four different statements to test obedience:
"Please continue"
"The experiment requires you to continue"
"It is absolutely essential that you continue"
"You have no other choice but to continue"
The results showed that 65 percent of participants would obey these suggestions, going as far as to "shock" the Learner with a possibly life-ending 450 volts.  Milgram's findings suggest that a large number of people would inflict pain on others if told to do so by someone in a position of authority.

The Stanford Prison Experiment.
August 1971.  Dr. Philip Zimbardo decided to conduct a social experiment to study perceived power and its psychological impact.  He gathered a group of 24 male students who were separated into the roles of "prisoners" and "guards" at Stanford University.
The students chosen as prisoners were arrested, given a mug shot and placed in a mocked-up prison, only being referred to by their prison number.  Not long after the study began, both sides became so immersed in their roles that the guards subjected the prisoners to psychological torture by having their clothes removed, mattresses taken, and used a bucket as a toilet.   Zimbardo finally realized the error of the experiment and ended it, and those who were playing the guards became upset that it ended early, because they became so engrossed in their roles that they demonstrated sadistic tendencies.  This experiment demonstrated that normal people can commit acts of violence against others when given a position of power, even when not told to do so.

The Belko Experiment.
In 2017, James Gunn (best known for writing and directing "Guardians of the Galaxy" and its upcoming sequel, as well as "Slither") and "Wolf Creek" director Greg McLean bring "The Belko Experiment" to theaters.  The film was written by Gunn after a dream, and focused on how workers would respond to the idea of kill or be killed.

The result is a film that only scratched the surface of something that could've been a very intriguing, thought-provoking movie.  Heck, it even could've fared well as a dark comedy, blending "The Hunger Games" with "The Office," but it didn't even achieve that.  What resulted was a bland blend of "Hunger Games," "Battle Royale," "The Condemned" and a litany of other "kill or be killed" subgenre movies.

The first part of the film introduces us to a number of the hapless employees in hopes of having us care for them or loathe them, but I found them all rather insufferable.  John Gallagher Jr.'s Mike is the protagonist, the pacifist who wants everyone to live and looks out for the best interest of everyone, and it's downright annoying.  I compare him to Morgan on "The Walking Dead" - all life is precious, even the life of people literally trying to kill you.  His sorta-girlfriend Leandra (Adria Arjona) is either berating him for being so passive, or standing behind his decision, depending on her mood.  The others who side with Mike are as unmemorable as they come.

As the insufferable boss, Tony Goldwyn's Barry is as annoying as anything, obviously the character the viewer wishes would die, but know full well will make it to the end.  He gathers a bunch of other insufferable killers - including John C. McGinley (best known for his comedic role on the hit series "Scrubs"), who here is just a perverted man who keeps eyeing Leandra and has very little comedy about him. 

Basically the only reason to see the movie is to see how people die.  Most of them get a explosion from the inside of their head, but there are some unique kills involving axes, an elevator, knives and Molotov cocktails, but in the end it's all for naught as the film never fully flushes itself out nor gives a real reason for this particular experiment.  It's just killer porn, plain and simple.

The Summary:
If you want to see a bunch of people get horribly killed, this movie is for you.  If you want to see a bunch of people get horribly killed and have a compelling storyline to boot, this is not the movie for you.

The Score: C

Comments