Mayhem (SXSW 2017)
Starring Steven Yeun, Samara Weaving, Steven Brand, Caroline Chikezie, Kerry Fox, Irene Smythe, Dallas Roberts
Directed by Joe Lynch
Screened at the 2017 SXSW Film Festival
Corporate life is hell, I think we can all agree on that. Unless you’re in the higher levels of the company, there really isn’t much to look forward to with your job. Long hours, no respect, a serious lack of appreciation, political bullshit, and almost certainly the worst kinds of snacks offered in the lounge. Seriously, who wants those granola bars that crumble apart into a gritty pile that gets everywhere.
That’s where Joe Lynch’s Mayhem comes in. Putting a bullseye right on that kind of work environment, the film asks the simple question, “What if all the people who worked in that kind of place suddenly didn’t give one single flying fuck about consequences?” If you’ve watched any of Joe’s other films, like Everly or Wrong Turn 2, then you’ll know the answer to that is blood, gore, violence, and then second helpings of each of those.
The story is rather simple and very easy to follow. Steven Yeun plays Derek Cho, a lawyer in a law firm who happens to be fired (wrongly, I might add) on the day that a virus, which completely removes people’s inhibitions, gets let loose and begins infecting everyone. Determined to go to the top floor and make his case to the board members as to why his termination was unjust, Derek teams up with Melanie (Samara Weaving), a woman who is trying to get an extension on the foreclosure of her home. The duo fight their way tooth and nail to gain access to the elite. All that stands in their way is HR, upper management, and a horde of interns desperate to get a promotion…
So, this isn’t about zombies, and it’s not some new spin on the rage virus from 28 Days Later. What happens here is that the virus simply removes all filters and inhibitions that a person needs on a daily basis. Someone said something offensive and you hold back from punching them in the face? Not today. You wanna say hello to your nether regions in public but you obviously don’t want to land on the sex offender registry? Pfft, the world is going to see you in your birthday suit doing unspeakable things. That’s what the virus does to people. They’re still very much human and capable of reason, logic, and normal conversation; they just have the potential to explode at any moment in a burst of what should be normally repressed emotion. Anger becomes rage, horniness becomes lust, irritation becomes violence, and so on and so forth.
Yeun and Weaving are both magnificent in their respective roles, although I found myself more charmed by the latter’s performance. Weaving commands the screen at nearly every moment, her character full of energy and oozing with dark humor. Steven Brand, Caroline Chikezie, Kerry Fox, and Dallas Roberts play unique villains, almost like four different bosses from a Streets of Rage-esque video game. They have their own quirks and traits that make them distinctly unlikable; yet, they each represent different evils within the corporate structure. Anyone who has worked in a similar place will think of their own experiences and immediately relate.
As for the film itself, it’s fast-paced, energetic, and wastes no time in getting the story going. Even in the first act when it’s setting up the film, it’s shot in a way so as to be constantly exciting and engaging, making sure that the viewer is a participant in this frantic nature. And once the virus is loose amongst all the inmates of this law firm asylum, that’s when the blood starts flowing, which Lynch doesn’t hesitate to splatter the screen with!
What Joe Lynch has done is craft one of the most entertaining and exciting films I’ve seen in a long time. Taking elements of The Raid and mixing it with a healthy dose of Office Space, Mayhem deftly blends action, horror, thriller, and comedy into a movie that will become a mainstay at any movie party. In summation, Mayhem is pure fun, with a capital “F” for “Fuck you!”