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MAYHEM (2017) review

November 9, 2017

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written by: Matias Caruso
produced by: Mehrdad Elie, Lawrence Mattis, Matt Smith & Sean Sorensen
directed by: Joe Lynch
rated: R (for bloody violence, pervasive language, some sexuality/nudity and drug use)
runtime: 86 min.
U.S. release date: November 10, 2017 (limited)

 

We spend way too much of our lives at work (at least in here in the States we do),  so your job should hopefully be something you enjoy and find contentment in. If you’re working a 9 to 5 gig someone else, hopefully it’s in an environment where you feel valued and appreciated and you’re not surrounded by back stabbers, annoying complainers and entitled slackers. Sadly, in the corporate world, that’s kind of rare, which can lead to pent up resentment, dissatisfaction and things won’t turn out there’s no release for all that pressure. In the horror action comedy “Mayhem”, director Joe Lynch has definitely created a violent outlet for boiling work frustrations and resentments, finding colleagues embracing how they truly think and feel without the typical filters. Audiences can either see their wish fulfillment play out in an insane manner before their eyes or be appalled at the complete loss of inhibitions.  

That being said, I don’t know how exactly someone would stumble into this movie. Even just by looking at the poster, one should have an idea that there will be bloody violence and/or gore (in this case, pretty much both). So, no one should be surprised by what kind of ahead for them in “Mayhem”.

 

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Screenwriter Matias Caruso wastes no time getting viewers caught up with the setting of his story. It’s established that there’s a specific virus pathogen out there called ID7 that finds those infected acting out their most violent, carnal or profane impulses (basically much of what we repress or think, but refrain from acting out or saying), free from any concern for the results of their words or actions. Hosts of the rabid virus succumb to wild altercations leaving anyone in their path in a bloody mess, either severely injured, maimed or dead. Others can just be found fornicating in broad daylight, clearly communicating that they’re beyond free from any social boundaries. The first signs of an ID7 infection is when one of the host’s eyes becomes blood red and then, well, the way in which they respond to someone who talks to them or is near to them. They could just suddenly curse someone out or lunge at them and begin pummeling them until they’re either pulled away or kicked off.

We learn all of this from our main character, Derek Cho (Steven Yeun, “The Walking Dead”), a corporate attorney at a firm called Towers & Smythe Consulting. He’s paid his dues at his job,  working his way up the proverbial corporate ladder, but now finds himself unable to go any further thanks to Kara “The Siren” (Caroline Chikezie, who was in Lynch’s last actioner “Everly”), a vindictive Operations Manager who frames Derek, purposely getting him fired. While he’s stunned at the unfortunate turn of events, we learn that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has quarantined the entire high-rise the company resides in for right hours due to an outbreak of the virus.

 

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During this time, Derek is visited by HR enforcer, known as “The Reaper” (Dallas Roberts, “The Walking Dead”) who visits “newly released” employees to have them sign off on their exit offer, sealing their termination. Derek decides to sign nothing and instead take his grievance to the top, literally, up the elevator to the top floor where the big bosses reside, such as John Towers (Steven Brand) and Irene Symthe (Kerry Fox) and the board of partners known as “The Nine” (all of whom can use monitors to oversee the activity below). Showing signs of the infection, Derek doesn’t launch into full psycho-agressive behavior until he’s down in the lobby and notices the lockdown and then it hits. There’s no getting out and people are starting to go crazy. When Derek is struck down by a pompous co-worker, Oswald (Nikola Kent), he lashes back and soon the whole lobby erupts into a massive fight.

Struggling to maintain his focus, Derek works his way up elevators and stairs, fighting his way from floor to floor, with the sole purpose of getting what he feels he derservs. Along the way, he encounters office brutes “The Bull” (André Eriksen) and finds an equally unstable partner in Melanie Cross (Samara Weaving “The Babysitter”) who becomes a formidable ally to Derek, as the two plow their way past potential and lethal threats. Armed with whatever is around them – a wrench, a nail gun, a handheld power saw – the duo dispense interns, colleagues and managers, all while Towers puts a 450k bounty on Derek’s head.

 

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Viewers who are used to Yeun from his role as Glen “The Walking Dead” will be used to seeing the actor bloodstained and his prowess, as well as taking out opponents and taking hits. The actor gives it his all in an invigorating lead role as his character administering a drawn-out fight against white-collar injustice. Yeun conveys frustration and manic anxiety excellently and appropriates comic timing effectively. Once he’s joined by Weaving’s Melanie, the messy fun is shared between the two actors the more the insanity increases. Melanie is an entertaining counterpart to Derek, displaying a cooler disposition under stressful environments, wearing bright Ray Ban sunglasses and brandishing a nail gun as her preferred weapon of choice. With a penchant for Motörhead, the character turns into a ruthless office warrior, pausing to role her eyes at Derek’s mention of the Dave Matthews Band being good live musicians.

Throughout all of Lynch’s crazy-bloody action and wildly uninhibited behavior, “Mayhem” is laced with some decidedly dark humor. It’s needed to offer some levity to the picture. Office politics are mocked and acknowledged in tongue-in-cheek irreverence. Caruso and Lynch nail the inanity of corporate jargon, superfulous rankings and egos backed by monumental salaries, breaking people down to their ugly, raw nature.

“Mayhem” isn’t as psychological and morally complex as “The Belko Experiment”, another gruesome office misadventure from earlier this year, but its conceit opens itself up to more humor and twisted enthusiasm. There may not be much in the way of social commentary like other virus infection stories, but this one more than makes up for it with its shear audacity. It definitely makes for a solid double feature with that film and I can certainly see it garnering something of a cult status.

 

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RATING: ***

 

 

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