History's boldest experiments have been those that pushed the ethical envelope. The experiment depicted in The Experiment fits that description, but the film itself can't claim the same boldness, pulling its punches in the third act and thereby greatly diminishing its impact. Paul Scheuring's American remake of Das Experiment proposes an interesting scenario: What would happen if you divided a group of ordinary men into prisoners and guards, and forced them to explore that power dynamic in an empty prison over the course of two weeks? By threatening to withhold the $14,000 participation fee unless they adhere to certain rules and conditions designed to spark conflict, the experimenters ensure that their guinea pigs won't just pass the time playing cards. What does happen is a simultaneously logical and sensational outgrowth of the circumstances, as practicality and fairness clash with pride and greed. However, one of the film's greatest strengths -- Forest Whitaker -- also personifies one of its most troubling weaknesses. On strictly the level of performance, Whitaker exudes a gonzo brilliance; the glint of madness in his eye manifests itself in some great abuse-of-power theatrics. It's the abruptness of his transformation that's problematic, even if Whitaker makes that transformation terrifically compelling. What appears to be a caring and decent man is twisted too quickly into someone who's neither, as his budding friendship with the film's other lead, Adrien Brody, gets bastardized into mutual antipathy with an alarming speed. Even if that's the point, it comes across as extreme, and some of the nasty developments that follow don't seem earned. Having decided to go down these dark alleys, though, The Experiment undercuts itself by jumping back into the sunlight, right when it should be seeing its ideas through to the bitter end. In this way, an otherwise engaging Experiment goes awry.