We have all been in situations when we just want to burn the building we work in down to the ground, grab our boss and head-butt them out of a very high window and watch them plummet to the ground as we, along with the only work college we can stand, go on a rampage picking off all those that irritate us in the workplace. But we don't because I am sure it would be very awkward the next working day. Some say that's why we have entertainment. Much like the Colosseum before it and sports now, film offers us an escape from our boring work lives, or it can provide an emotional catharsis as we watch our avatar do all the things that we wish we could do to Jessica who keeps eating my bloody YOGHURT! One of those films is Mayhem which maybe hits this nail on the head... and then continues to pummel that nail through your head.
Derek Cho (Steven Yuen)is a mid-level lawyer at Towers & Smythe Consulting. He started out as a young, naïve and optimistic assistant, but after years of working for the company he has been worn down to a cynical and sly power player, clawing his way to the top of the firm with an aptitude for finding legal loopholes. His most significant contribution to the firm, and perhaps the world, is during one specific case concerning a virus called the ID-7 virus or Red Eye. The virus is known to cause two main side-effects, firstly it affects the infected's inhibitions, removing them entirely, causing them to behave violently and irrationally without any regard for moral and legal consequences. The first known outbreak occurred at an office where one of the workers, a Nevil Reed killed a co-worker but was cleared of charges due to the murder being caused by ID-7. It was Cho who found that loop-hole.
However, despite his position, Derek is not safe from other high-level officials stabbing him in the back, and one does, Cara, who framed him for a legal fumble during a case for another company. He is promptly fired but before he can leave the government quarantine the Towers and Smythe building as the ID-7 virus has reared its red-eyed head. Not being able to go and with legal precedence allowing him to murder all those who have wronged him, alongside Melanie Cross, a woman who is about to be foreclosed on, Derek decides to kill his way to the top to challenge the firing and try to get his job back.
Mayhem is structured much like The Raid: Redemption or Dredd before it. Set in one single building with one single goal, to reach the top to do X, in this case talk to the partners of the firm to get Derek's job back and to ensure that Melanie keeps her house. It also has something quite videogame-like about it. Of course, there is the simple, single direction plot with a time limit, but there are also mini-bosses scattered in the story, with cool intros and exciting boss fights. The film's simple story allows director Joe Lynch, perhaps best known for his 2014 film, Everly, starring Selma Hayek, to drape stylish exhibitions of the ways you can kill someone with office supplies and socio-economic commentary. He shoots the action scenes well with stylistic camerawork that elevates the film above your usual murder rampage.
While the film is undoubtedly full of great action moments with inventive ways of getting into peoples' squishy bits, with nail guns, pens and hammers, the film is better when it is more bloody and gnarly. There is a scene halfway through the film where Derek and Melanie are just chatting talking about music. There when we have a quiet moment with our two leads away from the murder and mayhem, we learn about the people who are doing all the killing. It is a simple, robust scene to endear these characters to the audience.
This is helped wonderfully by off the wall performances from The Walking Dead's Steven Yeun and Samara Weaving, who played Bee in the Netflix Original film The Babysitter. The two have fantastic chemistry which humanises the chaos that they cause and helps smooth over the little inconsistencies in the virus' symptoms.
Mayhem is a film that is there purely to vent the frustrations of the standard nine to five office worker. But more importantly it knows what it is, accepts it and tries to be the very best it can be. It is a cathartic scream of a film that invites you to punch and kick yourself better. A visual experience to get you out of a rut, not in the uplifting, feel-good way but in an "I burnt it all, so you didn't have to" way. It is brilliantly acted, well shot and made with love; a workhorse film that will allow you some relief from the daily grind. It should be part of modern day therapy.