Mayhem (2017) Directed by Joe Lynch. Starring Steven Yeun, Samara Weaving and Steven Brand. A disgruntled attorney and a cheated client fight their way through a corrupt law firm’s building after being exposed to a virus that removes inhibitions.
At the outset of Mayhem, we are introduced to viral agent ID7. It’s a delightful little bugger (nicknamed the Red Eye virus) that mutes reason and restraint, resulting in the victim doing whatever the hell they want. If you’ve ever been stuck in a torturously unmoving line of misery at Starbucks and fantasized about strangling that hipster dope at the counter with the insanely complicated order, ID7 can make your dream come true.
The infected, known as Redders, become violent and occasionally lusty.
Steven Yeun plays Derek Cho, a once idealistic attorney at the law firm Towers & Smythe, who discovered a legal loophole that sets the first-ever Redder free from murder charges.
Through hard work and a willingness to operate in a moral vacuum, Derek is on the rise within the company. He’s not ready to entirely give up his soul and join the Dark Side, and there’s a certain subliminal hostility inside him at the horrific corporate monsters he works with and the way Towers & Smythe routinely screws people over. Even though he’s part of the machine and reaps the benefits, something doesn’t feel right.
One of his clients is attorney Melanie Cross, who represents bank foreclosure victims. She’s fighting for more time, but the overseeing party is Irene Smythe. She’s one of the powerful partners at Derek’s firm.
A controversial case leads Derek to go head to head with Kara aka The Siren, a high-ranking attorney with the ear of John Towers. He’s the firm’s ruthless senior partner, and he answers only to the board of directors known as The Nine. Should an employee find themselves on the outs with Towers & Smythe, they are visited by The Nine’s hatchet man, The Reaper. He’s the aloof and rather aristocratic dude who takes care of the dirty business of firings.
Through handshakes and water coolers, the Red Eye virus rapidly spreads throughout the building. Before its arrival, you had a group of cutthroat white-collar bastards willing to do whatever it takes to get ahead and curry favor with the partners. Now, these same people have a complete lack of inhibitions guiding their behaviors. Two words: buckle up.
When things begin going very wrong, Yeun embodies every worker who has ever wanted to throttle their boss. After several seasons as the heroic Glenn Rhee on “The Walking Dead,” it’s pure greatness to watch him go absolutely nuts here. You can’t help but love him. With blood and spittle pouring down his face, he breaks out of the good guy mold with fantastic results.
“I’m going to come to your house and fuckin’ kill you. Bye, mom.” says a T & S employee over the phone.
Before the signs of an outbreak even begin in earnest, the SWAT team shows up to lock the building down. And because Derek helped discover that ol’ loophole concerning murder and Redders, an infected Towers informs his lackeys that lethal violence is acceptable. In 8 hours, everything will go back to your regularly scheduled corporate lawyer douchebaggery.
Between now and then, best of luck.
Samara Weaving, who turned in a winning performance as the title character in the recent hit horror comedy “The Babysitter,” does not disappoint. Keep an eye on this actress.
The spitting contest between Melanie and Derek is only the beginning. When Mayhem is over, you WILL remember her indelible shriek of joy as she saws through a bad guy’s chest. Derek eventually recruits her to help him fight his way to the top of the tower to confront Irene and John. And who wouldn’t?
At first, a lack of inhibition for Melanie means you go up against deadly and all-powerful corporate evil by charging a pizza and garlic bread to their account. Things change pretty fast for her. In the glitzy building’s basement, Derek and Melanie stock up on maintenance hardware: hammers, nail guns, etc. Oh, it’s on.
The best kind of partnerships are sealed with this conversation:
“Need a hand?”
“I don’t need your help, suit.”
“But I need yours.”
“Fuck you, too.”
As employees violently staple paperwork and throw trash at each other, Derek and Melanie play out a game of ascending through the circles of Hell. The first target on the list is The Reaper, whose clearance can get them into the upper echelon offices. On the trip up, musical preferences are hilariously discussed while John Towers surrounds himself with both the Nine and cocaine.
If you thought Mayhem was just an opportunity for choice use of one of the Dave Matthews Band’s signature anthems, you may now exit the building. It’s a bloody and black-comic exploration of corporate culture with buckets of sloppy murder thrown in. To paraphrase the great Peter Gabriel, I’ll say this: “And you may ask yourself, shouldn’t Steven Yeun be considered for Best Recovery From Mace In The Mouth?” Wake up, Academy Awards. Stop being so boring and start giving out awards people give a shit about. And while we’re at it, let’s talk about Samara Weaving for Best Surprise Flashback Kill.