A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Belko Experiment is an extremely violent, though thought-provoking, thriller filled with extreme gore. The body count is high, with brains and blood spraying, guns and shooting, fighting, beating with blunt objects, stabbing and slicing, and characters being smashed and broken, etc. There's also a lot of general panic and aggression. Language is also strong, with uses of "f--k," "motherf----r," "s--t," and more. Characters kiss, a man leers at a co-worker, and a woman opens her blouse (revealing her bra) and "offers" herself to a o-worker. A few workers are shown smoking pot on more than one occasion. The filmmakers are talented, and while the movie is too relentlessly downbeat to be completely successful, it has some interesting things to say about human nature.
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What's the story?
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, saying that if two people aren't killed within 30 minutes, then random people will die. Steel doors go up, and the workers are trapped. Sure enough, several people are killed via the company-placed "tracker" in their head (the trackers explode). Next, they have two hours to kill 30 people, or 60 more will die. Executive Barry Norris (Tony Goldwyn) starts going for the guns, while Mike Velch (John Gallagher Jr.) tries to reason things out and help people. But as things descend further into panic and chaos, reason begins to slip away.
Is it any good?
Relentlessly bleak and hopeless, as well as grisly and gory, this well-made thriller still paints an interesting portrait of human nature and the divide between perceived strength and kindness. The Belko Experiment comes from the subversive combination of writer James Gunn (Slither, Guardians of the Galaxy) and director Greg McLean (Wolf Creek, 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 group of co-workers -- all played by fine character actors -- who seem like real people, the same kind of folks who might work in any office, and they establish the space of the office itself.
Then, as chaos and horror reign, some characters start thinking in terms of proactive, reasonable responses, while others lean toward self-defense and stockpiling. Some try to protect their friends, while others begin protecting themselves. It's a fascinating dynamic to think about in the midst of our very divided reality. Yet while the movie is sure to leave most viewers in despair, the filmmakers are smart enough to use their large cast to offer gray areas in between the two extreme factions, ultimately making The Belko Experiment less preachy and more messily human.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about The Belko Experiment's extreme violence and gore. What effect does it have? Does being exposed to violent media desensitize kids to violence?
What's the movie's ultimate lesson? What can we learn from the "experiment"? What does it reveal about human nature?
Which kinds of people are portrayed as bad guys, and which are good guys? Who would you side with? Why?
- In theaters: March 17, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: June 27, 2017
- Cast: John Gallagher, Jr., Tony Goldwyn, Adria Arjona
- Director: Greg McLean
- Studio: BH Tilt
- Genre: Thriller
- Run time: 88 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong bloody violence throughout, language including sexual references, and some drug use