Oh my goodness. About halfway through the film I realized that writing a review of the The Belko Experiment (88 minutes) would present a unique challenge. You see, I work in an office setting. And I know at least a couple of the people I work with read these reviews. Before I write another word, I want to reassure everyone I work with that my reviews are satirical and are not intended to make anyone worry about my mental state.
With that out of the way, what does it indicate about my mental state that I giggled every time some business suit wearing sad sack was executed in a particularly creative way? Is it just that I overwhelmingly love the work of James Gunn? Or is it that at the time I watched it, I was in desperate need of some catharsis after working extra-long hours to meet a deadline and then taking care of my poor sick family?
James Gunn wrote The Belko Experiment nearly eight years ago, right around the time he created The Specials, before he directed Super (both worth checking out, if you missed his pre-Guardians of the Galaxy material). This has some bearing on the review, so stick with me. At the time, he was going through his divorce from Jenna Fischer, you know — Pam, from The Office, and he didn’t want to work on such negative material during his divorce, so he put it aside. Then, when he was given the opportunity to pick it up again, he did. But here’s the funny part — however it was written originally, this is basically a film about how Jim from The Office and Pam from The Office spend hours being physically and psychologically tortured by Barry (Tony Goldwyn, the guy who killed Sam Wheat in Ghost).
No, Jenna Fischer and John Krasinski aren’t in the film. But the characters of Mike (John Gallagher. Jr.) and Leandra (Adria Arjona) closely align with Jim and Pam from The Office, and John Gallagher, Jr. (10 Cloverfield Lane) isn’t John Krasinski’s double, but the two bear more than a passing resemblance. I don’t mean to cast doubt on the account that Gunn and Fischer’s divorce was amicable. But Leandra does not get a happy ending.
Employees of Belko Industries (no relation to the department store chain) work in rural Bogota, Colombia. There are new security protocols in place and new, more militant security guards. A new employee, Dany (Melonie Diaz) is having an orientation, which establishes that Belko Industries implants security devices in the heads of employees to facilitate rescues in the event of a kidnapping and definitely not to blow up their heads. Wait Melonie! Don’t agree to this insanity! It’s the culture of fear that results in submission to excessive oversight and restriction on our personal freedoms that is the REAL danger!
But enough sociology. On to the mass murder of irritating co-workers! Barry’s backstory is that he was a Special Forces guy who transitioned into the corporate world, so be prepared for him to justify violence against the few to save the many. Which he does, frequently. Not that it saves him. Or anyone else for that matter. This is not an optimistic story about triumphing over evil sociologists — oh yeah, I forgot to mention that. Apparently, the Big Bad is a social scientist working with a consortium of other social scientists who believe that oversight is for lame scientists like mathematicians, but they should be able to torture people because you get better data that way. I see his point and may adjust my research objectives accordingly.
Overall, this was not amazing, but it was fun. There was something both punishing and gleeful about it, making it well worth a look, even if it was filled with missed opportunities for some social commentary.
Now playing at Patriot 14 + IMAX.