Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Belko Experiment

* spoilers *

In rural Bogata, Belko Corp employs numerous American people who are the only ones allowed in the building one day. New security search cars and belongings while turning away the local Columbian employees at the gate. 80 employees are left and they go about their day as normal until a voice comes on the intercom to inform the employees to kill two people or four would be killed randomly. People dismiss it as a joke, but soon after, the doors and windows are sealed with giant metal blinds. They panic and four of them die by the exploding tracker in the base of the skull the company implanted supposedly in case of kidnapping. Now, the employees either have to do what the voice says and kill whatever number is chose or wait for more to randomly die.

The film starts out with establishing the relationships in the office after the imported employees are allowed in the building. Mike is quickly established as a nice if a bit cheesy guy who loves Leandra. They are clearly dating, but Wendell constantly harasses her whenever he can, convinced that she should be dating him instead. Dany is the new hire on her first day while Barry, their boss, seems to be pretty sensible but firm. There are a bunch of others, but these are the main ones. When the announcement comes to kill 4 people, most treat it as a joke and go on with their day until heads start exploding. When the danger becomes real and all of their escape routes are cut off, the employees split into 3 groups: the rich white men (including Wendell and Barry) who try to take charge and want to actively kill, Mike and a lot of others who want to try anything else, and the rest of the employees who have no plan at all, but merely want to survive. The rich men group take charge only so they won't be chosen to die plus they seem pretty comfortable with killing later in the film. The rest of the people kill for survival, but shy away when they can.

Mike quickly establishes himself as an enemy of team rich guys by first loudly proposing an alternative to their plan and ruining their chances of breaking into the security armory. He also opposes the unseen voice by trying to cut out his transmitter and putting up signs asking for help. It does seem like he got special treatment because he wasn't killed immediately after the second infraction. Dany spends a lot of the film hiding and survives way longer than I expected. She kills someone accidentally in defense and shows innovation in her idea to hide in the elevator shaft and turn off the power. I was cheering for her because everything was against her. She would have been the best winner to subvert expectations if this is to be taken as a violent metaphor for corporate America, but it didn't turn out that way. After much back and forth, Team Rich White Dudes decides to organize people by arbitrary categories and starts shooting them. The submission to being killed is believable because panicking people in shock will follow authority figures and so many more lives are at stake. Dany subverts this by turning out the lights, allowing people to escape, but her death was the result of the dumbest decision. It wasn't realistic with how her character was established at all.

The story continues as more and more people are expected to die. The conflict between peace and violence doesn't even matter because the end rule is that whoever kills the most people at the end gets to live. The gore flows freely and looks realistic. However, when it's down to Mike against Barry, it seems to be saying that corporate America boils down to two white dudes against each other, which is pretty tonedeaf. I couldn't really care much about which one won even though Barry is terrible because Mike honestly isn't much better. He seems too much like guys who insist they are nice and deserve things as a result. I loved the ending and thought it was clever, but Mike as the final guy is too expected. We glimpse other Belko experiments where an old woman won, which would have been really interesting, but we just get this predictable plot. It seems like James Gunn wrote a fantasy movie for the guys that see themselves in Mike. He seems to think they make up most of his audience. Michael Rooker and Sean Gunn are criminally underutilized and so many much more interesting characters than Mike died well before they should have.

The Belko Experiment merges aspects of Battle Royale and Office Space to make a pretty entertaining movie. I appreciate that the marketing made it clear that it was referencing Battle Royale with its use of Verdi's Requiem, which is featured in the dramatic beginning of the Japanese film. However, Mike as the main hero is problematic and pretty boring in a number of ways. I didn't care about him or his lame shoehorned romance and it really brought down the film for me. The film addressed other office issues that effect people of color and women, but the ending just shows that it didn't really matter at all.

My rating: 2.5/5 fishmuffins

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