There’s a refreshingly straightforward brutality to “The Belko Experiment”, a darkly comic beat-‘em-up from writer James Gunn (“Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2”) and director Greg McLean (“Wolf Creek”).
In an isolated American office building in rural Bogota, Colombia, the working day starts much like any other for the ex-pat employees, even if security seems suddenly very tight. However, when the building is abruptly sealed off and the Tannoy crackles into life, the loyal workers of Belko Industries discover they have been selected for a social experiment and the dog eat dog world of office politics is about to become very, very real.
There’s nothing terribly original in the premise here, drawing as it does from everything from “Lord Of The Flies” to “Battle Royale” to that one daydream you had during that one, incredibly dull, seemingly never-ending meeting on a dull Wednesday afternoon but there’s an undeniable frisson to seeing office politics subsumed by the realpolitik of kill or be killed.
Where Gunn’s script and his eponymous corporation succeed is in allowing the experiment to proceed with a fairly light touch. Sure, there are some forceful nudges to get things rolling but once the Belko employee morale is past the tipping point, it’s the characters who drive the story forward to its grisly conclusion. Where it struggles, though, is in satirising much beyond its initial comparison of corporate career progression being a fight to the death. Beyond that, it has little of substance or insight to offer on working life or corporate exploitation through its metaphor but it seems to hope by that point you’re having so much fun watching these people slash, burn and shoot each other you won’t mind.
The cast is likeable and packed full of great character actors like Michael Rooker, John C McGinley and the apparently ageless Tony Goldwyn who provides a focal point for the fear and hostility of the staff as the man-of-the-people-my-door-is-always-open-COO-gone-bad while our moral ‘hero’ John Gallagher Jr channels his best Jim from “The Office: An American Workplace” pushed beyond breaking point.
There’s a twist in the tale at the very end which points both to a direction for a sequel and a fascinating intriguing of the idea behind the film as well as a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it inference that Dunder Miflin itself may have been a subsidiary of Belko Industries but taken as a standalone movie, “The Belko Experiment” will find a comfortable place as a post-pub movie, perfect for unwinding on a Friday night after another killer week at work.