Like most of Greg McLean’s films, “The Belko Experiment” is just a big excuse to be as sadistic and inexplicably cruel as humanly possible, while taking pages from Koushun Takami’s “Battle Royale.” Coincidentally, another film in the same vein as “The Belko Experiment” came to theaters in 2017, in the form of Joe Lynch’s “Mayhem,” and while both films are insanely violent, at least the latter film had something to say about office culture and corporate politics. There’s a certain point in “The Belko Experiment” where it’s clear that McLean and writer James Gunn have no commentary on office culture and are by no means exploring the idea of fighting for a job through over the top violence, clearly just going for cruel unnecessary violence.
It’s the point where a trio of the office’s alpha males begins sorting out office drones and executing them set to a Spanish version of “California Dreaming.” I’m assuming the whole drawn out sequence is supposed to represent some kind of satirical element, especially with how every single song in the film is in Spanish. But at the end, it’s played deathly serious, and is a painful, and disturbing sequence. Especially when you see a bunch of middle aged women and older men begging for their lives. Set in the immediate future, a building filled with office drones working for the Belko Corporation is surprised when their building is locked down. Much to their horror, they’re informed over loud speaker that they have to perform a series of tasks involving murder and survival, or else the tags on the back of their heads will detonate.
For what purpose? No one is quite sure. As paranoia and hysteria kicks in, friends become foes, and once reclusive office workers become deadly predators. Director McLean and writer James Gunn almost, sort of, kind of, seems to be going for satire and social commentary but they toss that out the window mid-way in favor of a lot of unnecessary violence. There are head explosions aplenty, and people being hacked to pieces, fights to the death, and a ton of head shots, all of which never really amount to anything but filling the time with splatter. McLean, again, almost seems to be pushing for some kind of dark comedy or commentary, with one scene involving protagonist Mike thwarting office alpha males attempts to break in to an armory. The scene ends in an elevator where the security guard cheers Mike on for being “Hardcore.”
“The Belko Experiment” will convince many fans that the movie has sharp commentary about social politics, when really it’s just a lot of torture, and cruelty for the sake of entertainment. My conclusion is further supported by the goofy final scene that not only doesn’t make a ton of sense, and offers zero explanation, but threatens a sequel, to boot. At the very least, Greg McLean casts a slew of wonderful character actors, including Melonie Diaz, John Gallagher Jr., Tony Goldwyn, John C. McGinley, and Michael Rooker, respectively. It’s just a damn shame their talents can’t save such a thoroughly unpleasant, tedious, and immensely vicious piece of junk.