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Movie Review: “The Belko Experiment”

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

The Belko Experiment

Theatrical Release: 3/17/2017

Theatrical Release: 3/17/2017

Synopsis

Mike (John Gallagher Jr.) begins his day as any other. He has a mundane job at Belko Industries, an American company located in Bogota, Columbia. The local area is not safe, so Belko Industries is equipped with an intense defense system, and employees are chipped for their safety. In the event of a lockdown, no one can get in or out of the building. Unfortunately, this security system will shortly become a living hell for Mike and his fellow coworkers.

In a twisted social experiment, an unknown terrorist group takes over the building’s security system, locks down the building, and forces the employees inside to play a sinister game of life and death. The employees are given specific rules, but essentially have to kill each other or they themselves will be killed. Civilized men and women are quickly forced into a survival of the fittest scenario. Lines are crossed, professional relationships are ruined, but what would you do if your life was at stake?

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.

The ProsThe Cons

The Premise (+5pts)

Character Development (-10pts)

The Action (+5pts)

Predictable (-4pts)

The Actors (+3pts)

Gets Old Quick (-6pts)

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Pro: The Premise (+5pts)

The film’s greatest strength, had to be its premise. It is a pretty ridiculous, but straight forward concept. The plot is easy to follow, makes way for a ton of natural action, and forces characters into very different roles than what they are used to. The filmmakers clearly knew they had what could be a fun, but ridiculous movie and I appreciated that the filmmakers did not try to setup the premise in a way that tries to make sense of it. It is ridiculous, but the filmmakers just throw you right into it. It was a fun premise, that does not need to make sense, it just needed to entice potential viewers, which it certainly did.

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Con: Character Development (-10pts)

While ridiculous, this story’s premise forces its characters to transform. Some definitely transform more than others, but the filmmakers did a pretty poor job of developing any of these transformations. Other than with Mike, the character development just was not present in this movie. Mike gets some development, but it really was not anything special.

The problem I had, was with all of the characters who became antagonists. It was like an immediate switch that was just flipped. Before the lock down, they were all typical men in an office, but then the lock down starts and a bunch of them instantly band together and are totally okay with murdering people they have worked with for years. It just felt like there was no natural progression here, and the characters felt incredibly one-dimensional. The filmmakers knew they had a ridiculous premise, but failed to see the great character development that could have been given to all of these characters as they struggle with the morality of their actions. Instead, the filmmakers chose a pretty lazy way to portray these characters, which made them very hollow and uninteresting.

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Pro: The Violence (+5pts)

This was a very violent movie. It was not just mild violence, there is a lot of intense violence from when the building gets locked down, right up until the climax of the story. What made the action so compelling was that neither the people dishing it out, nor the people receiving it, were people who were used to violence. With every gunshot, and axe swing, the violence had so much more weight because every character was out of their comfort zone. It made the whole situation feel more intense and extreme, because it felt unnatural for everyone involved. Additionally, the gore was necessary because it was supposed to shock the characters, as well as the audience. I had a lot of major issues with this movie, but the violence was not one of them.

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Con: Predictable (-4pts)

The movie was predictable for two main reasons. The first was that the plot was a bit too simple for my taste. There just was not much to it. I knew where the story was going because there was really only one direction for it to go in. The characters did not have a choice, they either kill, or they die. Some characters are reluctant, some characters are not, but everything progressed exactly as you would expect it to.

This was also a movie that did not benefit from having a main character. Mike finds himself in plenty of precarious situations, but I never had concern that the main character was in trouble. I knew he would survive for one reason, and one reason only: he was the main character. Sure, there is a chance he dies as the end, but (for the most part) whenever he is in a bad situation, all you have to do is look at the time and you know he will be just fine. This is the case with a lot of movies, but (like I said before) Mike was the only character who got any development, which made him the only interesting (albeit minimally interesting) character.

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Pro: The Actors (+3pts)

Like I said before, the characters were not given much development (if any), which means the actors were not given much to work with. This, mixed with a ridiculous premise, makes a combination that would be hard to sell to the audience, if the actors could not pull off their respective roles. Fortunately, the cast did a decent job with what they had to work with. There were three types of characters in this movie. Each played an important role in getting the audience to go along with the movie.

The first type of character is the victim, who does not do much other than scream, panic, or get killed. These characters are important because they make the threat feel real. The second type of character is the antagonists, who quickly try to take charge, and claim power to save their own skin (no matter the cost). These characters are obviously important because they are the threat that the other characters have to overcome. We will refer to the last character type as “WTF characters“, who are relatable characters (like the main character) that the audience can connect with. WTF characters are characters who try desperately to hang on to their sanity, try to make sense of the situation, and try to get everyone out of the building alive. Each character type plays an important part of this movie, and the cast did a good job (considering what they had to work with) of making these characters believable.

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Con: Gets Old Quick (-6pts)

The filmmakers had a premise that pulled me in, but they did little to maintain my interest. There is plenty of violence, but that is about it. This makes the premise feel old pretty quickly, which is not made any better by the fact that the story progresses exactly as you would expect it to. They had a good concept, but I got the impression that the filmmakers overestimated the premise that they had, as they did not try to deliver a more compelling story. They simply thought that the premise would be good enough on its own, but it was not.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C-

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

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Grade: D+ (68pts)

The filmmakers had a decent premise with this movie, but I thought that they severely dropped the ball with the execution. The premise is ridiculous in a good way, and the cast did a pretty good job, considering the material they were given. Unfortunately, the film’s problems far outweighed its redeeming qualities. Most of those problems were a result of lazy writing.

The characters were very poorly written as they were in a story that begged to have strong character development, but they were given little to none. This movie would have worked so well if these characters were given moral conflict, but the filmmakers failed to see that. Instead we get a very cookie-cutter plot and, while the action was done really well, the overall poor writing was just too much for the film to overcome. The movie had potential, given its premise, but the filmmakers got lazy and delivered a movie that should have been straight to DVD, and a movie that I do not think is worth watching.