Welcome back, bruisers and boozers! The good people managing Dread Central have deemed this month’s theme “MAYhem,” which I’m more than happy to oblige. How better to bring the requested “mayhem” than with a movie titled Mayhem? That’s right, fellow cogs in the machine! My latest Drinking With The Dread honors Joe Lynch’s overnight “Worksploitation” classic – yes, validated and Donato approved – with an added layer of inebriation to enrage those white-collar frustrations. Damn the man, let that anger flow, and feel the bloody-knuckled catharsis of Lynch’s righteous slice of cinematic aggression.
Given how viewers seemed thrown by The Belko Experiment’s darker, more nefarious tone, I kept referring to Mayhem in writing as “exactly what audiences wanted and didn’t get from The Belko Experiment” (which I also love, by the way). Steven Yeun plays an acknowledged corner-office douchebag who finds himself corrupted, abused, and then tossed aside by corporate juggernaut Towers and Smythe Consulting. Just as he’s sacrificially fired, a rage virus identified as “ID-7” starts infecting employees across office floors and must be quarantined. Derek, barred in by government officials and succumbing to the virus’ morality erasure, goes on his own Dante’s Inferno quest upwards to Towers and Smythe’s “Big 9” boardroom to fight fist-and-foot for his job…literally.
Mayhem is fun with a capital “F-U,” screaming attitude through a megaphone at max volume. Derek challenges vile bosses such as Human Resources “Reaper” Lester (Dallas Roberts), manipulative backstabber Kara (Caroline Chikezie), and cocaine vacuum John Towers (Steven Brand), but he has a secret weapon – wrong place, wrong time client Melanie (Samara Weaving). She’s a metalhead fighting against her home’s repossession, but it’s Weaving who’s the *actual* secret weapon. She cackles with Margot Robbie’s charm and unhinges magnificently due to ID-7’s control with utmost kick-assedness. Weaving is, no hyperbole, one of the most engaging genre actresses working today and deserves to be the biggest of stars. Every scene is made better by her crazy eyes, firecracker wit, and coolness under chaos. If Yeun is a heat-seeking missile aimed at corporate injustice, then Weaving is the working-class warrioress of the highest pedigree.
Lynch is so adept at sparking anarchy and letting office drones brawl, fornicate, and tear down established systems with cynicism on blast. Messages of fulfillment outside paygrades read loud and clear, hierarchies topple, but Mayhem is always best as a sensory overload of inter-department rumbling. No scene better than when Derek and Melanie approach Kara’s team with weapons drawn. Verbal sparring turns into Derek’s reciting of mocked-up terms and conditions while Faith No More’s “Motherfucker” ramps in the background. Just as Derek and Melanie prepare to attack, the song blasts into overdrive moments before assistants and yes-men are beaten into submission. There’s no hesitation or reflection on consequences. Lynch brings out the worst in his characters for 90-ish minutes and lets them play amongst sin without thinking twice.
Remember that scene in Wanted where James McAvoy whacks Chris Pratt in the face with his computer keyboard and the dislodged letters (plus tooth) spell “F-U-C-K Y-O-U?” Mayhem is that but feature length.
Highlight moments include but are not limited to:
- RAGE MODE, ENGAGE.
- Samara. Weaving.
- Angrier than a frothy-mouthed dog with rabies.
- Metal AF.
- Workers acting out their daily routines but under the virus’ influence.
- Yeun telling every manager what they finally deserve to hear.
- Unapologetic nature that understands what corporate America has become and how easy it is to lose one’s self in “the grind.”
- Yuen’s unleashing of so much attitude in one of his first roles after exiting The Walking Dead.
- The “Motherfucker” scene.
- Joe Lynch, the I.T. pillager.
Are all your “i’s” dotted and “t’s” crossed? If so, clock out and get busy boozin’ to Mayhem with this month’s Drinking With The Dread rules.
- Take a drink whenever someone says “ID-7,” “Red Eye,” or “Redders” in relation to the virus.
- Take a drink whenever someone says company names “Towers and Smythe Consulting” or “Vandacorp” (if you REALLY want to get drunk, drink whenever you see the “Towers and Smythe” logo as well).
- Take a drink whenever someone rides an elevator.
- Take a drink whenever Melanie calls Derek “Suit.”
- Take TWO drinks whenever someone dies (confirmed visual character deaths only, not for “Random Background Corpse #13”).
- Take TWO drinks every time we visit the boardroom.
- TAKE A SHOT when Faith No More’s “Motherfucker” reaches climax right before Derek and Melanie fight “The Siren’s” cronies.
Friends, raise your glasses and toast the lean, mean, tight-as-twine “Worksploitation” necessity known as Mayhem. Such a title inspires lofty promises, but Joe Lynch valiantly rises to the occasion. My bosses may not want to hear how much I enjoy and relate to Derek’s soul-sucked reclamation of life, but the midnight movie lover in me keeps Mayhem in steady rotation. This movie is fierce, fun, and fantastically outspoken, heavy in thematic rebellion and rightfully light in subtlety. The true definition of “red dead redemption,” some might say.