TIFF 2016 Review: The Belko Experiment
The Belko Experiment Review: Battling Boredom
I don’t even know where to begin with The Belko Experiment. The action gore-fest that James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy) wrote and kept on the cutting room floor for ten years appropriately premiered at this year’s “Midnight Madness,” at the Toronto International Film Festival. Gunn himself made it a point to come out on stage and state that he thought no studio would buy the script, claiming it to be too “dark” for a mass audience. Now that I’ve seen The Belko Experiment, I can honestly say that’s not the case. No studio would buy The Belko Experiment because it’s a bad movie.
At first, it seems like an ordinary morning on the job for a group of Americans working for a not-for-profit in a modern office building in Colombia. After noticing their Colombian colleagues have not arrived for work, office worker Mike (John Gallagher Jr.) spots some unfamiliar security guards entering a large hangar nearby. Moments later, an icy voice comes over the building’s PA system and calmly explains how the employees must kill a certain number of their co-workers. If not, they will be killed themselves. Metal doors come sliding down on all of the buildings exits and windows; it becomes clear that friends and colleagues are now enemies in a bloody, brutal, and boring battle to the death.
The Belko Experiment would work fine if it were a 20-minute short film. The movie is not self-aware enough to make up for its stupidity, too serious to be entertaining and too over-the-top to be fun. The first few minutes of the film are decent enough, with establishing a likable enough protagonist, a tense one setting environment and a slew of characters, cliched and all, to love or hate. This would be completely acceptable if the movie weren’t too self-serious in trying to reach the ultimate goal of senseless violence.
Sure, you can argue that there’s a small fragment of message about humanity and the willingness to live, but that’s a stretch. Instead, Belko is just mindless gore-porn intended for shock value. Heads explode, guns are fired, and people are executed in cold blood. It’s tasteless not even trying for the “so bad it’s good” territory. Tony Goldwyn is in this movie, so there’s that. He’s hamming it up, bored out of his mind awaiting his paycheck from Orion Films (yes they still exist).
The only worthy one who is trying is poor John Gallagher Jr. He’s such a terrific actor that he can bring a likable presence, to even the most poorly written scripts. Not every good actor hits a home run, and this is a mere pop-foul in the young actor’s resume.
I may seem like I’m overly dramatic on the violence and gore, I happen to like these factors in movies when they are done well. These elements can be used substantially (Evil Dead, Cabin in the Woods) when in the right creative hands. The Belko Experiment just exists because it can. The kills are boring; the script is bad and there is no message or social commentary that makes any of these events make sense. The movie ends trying to set up for a sequel. It’s done is such a lazy manner, I was almost slapping myself to make sure this was real.
This movie gets a few points out of me for the likable and always 100% John Gallagher Jr. That’s the only redeeming quality of The Belko Experiment. However, if you are in the age bracket of 12-17, you will more than likely think this is the best movie ever.
The Belko Experiment opens on March 17th, 2017
John Gallagher Jr.
No real purpose or plot
action is nonsensical without purpose
takes itself too seriously.