By: Gabriel Eldorado (Four Beers) –
The Experiment is “loosely” based on the Stanford Prison Experiment in 1971, which you are undoubtedly familiar with if you have taken any gen ed. courses or if you have been unfortunate enough to be subjected to the drunken ramblings of THAT guy, you know the one, the philosophy major in college who works at a coffee house now and only drinks obscure beer. Instead of him dabbling in vandalism or peeing in public like people should when they become drunk, he decides to lecture the party goers on “pressing” moral issues. As expected, he uses the Stanford Prison Experiment as his jumping off point to prove the inherent depravity of man.
Everyone’s read “Lord of the Flies” and watched as “Party Down” got canceled while “Jersey Shore” fist-pumps on, so we are fully aware that man sucks. However if you somehow missed both of those delightful experiences, The Stanford Prison Experiment placed a group of randomly selected college students (from Stanford, obviously) in a prison environment assigning some to the position of guards and some to the position of inmates. Apparently, neither group could play nice and the situation got quickly out hand (it’s not spoilers, it’s HISTORY),which inevitably was put to film in The Experiment.
At points (very fleeting moments that is) the film becomes startlingly poignant because you are aware that this is based on a true story and it is sometimes frightening to know what men with no history of violence can become when ordered to.
Director Paul Scheuring directed Prison Break, so he does have some experience shooting in a prison. The action scenes are visually stimulating and the cuts are fast-paced making it hard for the viewer to lose focus because of the quick transitions. With the high resolution and camera angles, the film looks more like a TV show than a movie, but this plays in its favor by focusing in on some of the more gut-turning scenes. However, outside of looking good and moving quickly The Experiment really has nothing going for it.
If you have ever seen The Real World, which, don’t lie, you have, you know that they try to type-cast the most stereotypical motley crew of people to create synthetic drama on set. The Experiment follows the exact same principle. As soon as we meet a character, we know exactly how they are going to behave(Forest Whitaker’s Barris notwithstanding) by how they look.
This proves to be helpful at times because there is absolutely no character development, instead we must surmise that the guy with piercings’ and eye-liner must be the edgy one with a temper and since Adrien Brody has long hair and old military clothing and resembles a hippie he is going to be against all violence and for peace. Whatever, if you’re watching this movie your either drinking heavily or don’t have the patience for things like “character development,” so it is not a huge issue, but does turn annoying after it happens with every character.
“Dammit Adrien! Even Paul Walker knows that the first rule of acting is don’t look directly into the camera!”
When you are introduced to Forrest Whitaker’s character, Barris, you won’t initially find yourself chugging, but once he decides to transform into a power-hungry maniac you’ll find yourself wondering if you double-fisting might make this experience more bearable. I have no issue with his character going from devout Christian to depraved asshole; he can go crazy and kill the whole production crew, I DON’T CARE.
However, I do have issues with him going from the guy that will help you move out Saturday even though he finds you obnoxious to someone who gets sadist boners(still not sure if they really exist or if that’s a Hollywood myth) with literally no buildup. He just flips personalities in a matter of two seconds. I have taken a smattering of Psychology courses (rendering me an expert) and that is not possible and no, he doesn’t have bi-polar disorder, he just has a bad case of “lazyscreenwriting”-itis, a very serious and grave disease.
Adrien Brody looks back on his career post The Piano.
A pounding soundtrack is fitting for a prison movie due the subject matter and the typical way the plot unfolds, but do not assault my ear drums with your bastard child of electronic/grunge if THERE IS ABOSUTELY NOTHING HAPPENING ON SCREEN. This is just common sense and decency. Yes, I see you are creating a “mood” original music creator Graeme Revell and it’s a bad one. It does not add to the visceral nature of the film or perceived grittiness, no it just makes me break in my volume button with these auditory booby traps placed covertly in dull scenes.
Uglier than most of the population, yet look at his arm candy. There is no god.
With better prison movies out there, I am not sure why anyone would waste their time on The Experiment. You’d be better off seeing the German original, which has a small cult following usually indicating quality or excessive violence. I never took the time to see it because once again, I knew how it ended. I don’t exactly see the point of making a film about a famous study unless it was going to be a historical examination, but as far as trying to fictionalize it with a modern twist seems pointless to me. We all know what happens and without having solid performances to overshadow the very scant plot, the film was really doomed from the start. All I have say that is after seeing this I can’t wait for The Conditioning starring Owen Wilson as the voice of Pavlov’s Dog.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a drink: every time Forrest Whitaker looks confused.
Take a drink: every time a prison cliché is used( Butt-rape, etc.)
Take a drink: every time the film cuts to the red caution light (your liver will hate this one).