Combustible Celluloid
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With: John Gallagher Jr., Tony Goldwyn, Adria Arjona, John C. McGinley, Josh Brener, Michael Rooker, Sean Gunn, Melonie Diaz, Abraham Benrubi, David Dastmalchian, Owain Yeoman, Brent Sexton, Mikaela Hoover, Rusty Schwimmer, David Del Rio, James Earl, Maruia Shelton, Gail Bean, Joe Fria, Stephen Blackehart, Benjamin Byron Davis, Valentine Miele
Written by: James Gunn
Directed by: Greg McLean
MPAA Rating: R for strong bloody violence throughout, language including sexual references, and some drug use
Running Time: 88
Date: 03/17/2017

The Belko Experiment (2017)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Office Demise

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Relentlessly bleak and hopeless, as well as grisly and gory, this well-made thriller nonetheless paints an interesting portrait of human nature and the divide between perceived strength and kindness.

In The Belko Experiment, a group of people, mostly Americans, work together in a huge office building in Bogota, Colombia. One day, everyone arrives at work to discover something wrong at the security gate; several workers are being sent home. Then, before long, a voice booms throughout the building, stating that if two people are not killed within 30 minutes, then random people will die.

Steel doors go up, and they are trapped. Sure enough, several workers are killed, the company "tracker" placed in their heads exploded. Next, they have two hours to kill thirty people or sixty more will die. COO Barry Norris (Tony Goldwyn) starts going for the guns while Mike Velch (John Gallagher Jr.) tries to reason things out and to help people. But as things descend further into panic and chaos, reason begins to slip away.

The Belko Experiment from the subversive combination of writer James Gunn (Slither, Super, Guardians of the Galaxy) and director Greg McLean (Wolf Creek, Wolf Creek 2, The Darkness), and they aim for a primal experience, less romantic than The Hunger Games and less darkly comic than Battle Royale. They establish a round of co-workers — played by a group of fine character actors — that seem like real people, the same characters that might work in any office, and they establish the space of the office itself.

Then, as chaos and horror reign, some characters begin thinking in terms of proactive, reasonable responses, while others begin to think in terms of self-defense and stockpiling. Some try to protect their friends, while others begin protecting themselves. It's a fascinating theme to think about during a highly divided political climate.

Yet while the movie is sure to leave most viewers in despair, the filmmakers are smart enough to use their big cast to include gray areas in-between the two factions, making it less preachy and more messily human.

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