Time was a movie like this could stir some outrage. Impressive murder-and-gore-makeup test footage passed off as a narrative provocation, Greg McLean’s grimdumb day-ruiner The Belko Experiment offers the following: a relentless parade of executions, mostly via gunshots to the head, of the white-collar employees of the Belko Corporation; a weak spine of Die Hard meets Lord of the Flies or Office Space meets The Hunger Games meets the ferry scene in The Dark Knight plotting, which finds a Belko office building getting locked down and all eighty employees trapped inside told they must murder each other to survive; occasional feints toward the idea of a Stanford-like social experiment exposing how quickly everyday people can become monsters; the witlessness to headshot that idea as soon as it’s introduced, as it’s revealed that the tracker at the base of each employee’s skull will go kaboom if employees don’t play along; the chutzpah to present the ensuing carnage as something the filmmakers themselves are shaken and disgusted by, even as they cut to pulped flesh as often as The Big Bang Theory pauses for the laugh track, and even as such displays are the only reason the film exists.
In the late reels, the killers diversify, cleaver-hacking, twisting necks, crushing a dude with an elevator. Only once does a character take true advantage of the office setting, cracking a tape dispenser again and again into a villain’s face. And then again. (And again.) Don’t expect style or invention, much less satire. Its only interest as an experiment is that, out of duty, the roomful of critics I saw it with all stuck around until the end.
The Belko Experiment
Directed by Greg McLean
Opens March 17, AMC Loews Orpheum 7, AMC Loews 34th Street 14, AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13, AMC Loews 19th Street
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 15, 2017