Written and produced by Guardians of the Galaxy’s James Gunn, The Belko Experiment centres on a straightforward premise, one which asks the question: What if the Office Space workforce had been forced into a Battle Royale scenario?
Things start off well enough, with the mischievous tone and inspired musical beats (a Spanish rendition of “I Will Survive” is a particular standout) promising playful B-movie delights. The pawns arrive at work at the Columbian branch of American corporation Belko, and their average day takes a turn when the high-rise building is sealed off and an emotionless voice over the intercom orders them to kill or be killed. And the redundancy clock is ticking.
Alas, the promise of outrageous hijinks and some scathing commentary on corporate culture never materialises. Wolf Creek’s Greg McLean ditches his grindhouse approach and instead adopts an all-too-literal direction that can’t sustain the familiar “kill to survive” premise. As for the screenplay, it never manages to mine the satirical and absurd potential of its semi-promising setup. What remains is a slapdash splatterfest that is suitably gory and laudably lean, but underwhelming in its William-Golding-was-right-all-along stance. With more offbeat comedy leanings, an inventive commitment to the kills within the office surroundings, as well as a sharper satirical edge, cult status was within its reach. As it stands, The Belko Experiment is too one-note and lacks the mordant wit of Drew Goddard’s The Cabin in the Woods or the intelligence of Kinji Fukasaku’s aforementioned genre touchstone.
The Belko Experiment | Directed by Greg McLean (US 2016) with John Gallagher Jr, John C. McGinley, Michael Rooker. Starts June 15.
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