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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Nov 13, 2017

Mayhem Movie Review: Fast Paced, Deliriously Violent Thriller That's Also A Satire On The Dog-Eat-Dog Corporate Culture And Greed

WE FELT BAD when we watched “Mayhem” as there were just a few of us inside the theater. Were it better promoted, it could have attracted more people at the box office since it’s the kind of movie lots of viewers would go for, so fast paced, so involving and you’ll feel it’s such a guilty pleasure as it’s deliriously violent, but with style.

It’s directed by Joe Lynch, who has made some pretty violent films before like “Wrong Turn: Dead End” and “Everly” (with Salma Hayek), but this is his bloodiest work so far. “Mayhem” is unique in that it stars an Asian actor, with a mainly Caucasian cast supporting him. The lead role is played by Steven Yeun, who was born in Seoul but grew up in Michigan, USA. He gained fame as Glenn Rhee in the hit horror-drama series, “The Walking Dead”. When his character was killed in that show, a lot of his loyal fans mourned for him.

In “Mayhem”, he plays Derek Cho, a lawyer-everyman who works by the rules hoping he’d get to the top of the corporate ladder in the big consultancy company where he works by the dint of hard work. But he gets the shock of his life when someone frames him up and he’s now being used as a scapegoat for a malfeasance that he didn’t commit.

He’s being forced to resign but he refuses to take this sitting down and lose his job that easily. He wants justice so he fights back and becomes so determined to take the matter to the top bosses of the company who are at the top most floor of their building. At this point, SWAT teams suddenly come along and seal their entire building. It turns out their building has been infected by a mysterious virus that makes anyone who’s afflicted by it very aggressive and prone to violence. No one is allowed to come out for 8 hours when the viral infection has subsided. This is definitely not just another routine day in the office.

Derek uses this as an excuse to take desperate measures in his struggle to get to the top floor, demolishing all the obstacles that prevent him along the way through the most violent means. Derek is a lawyer and he knows that there has been a precedent where a person who committed a crime while infected by the virus was not held criminally liable and got off the hook.

Chaos erupts and anarchy rules in the entire building. Derek finds an unlikely ally in an outsider, Melanie (Samara Weaving), who picked the wrong day to fight for the foreclosure notice on her home mortgage. She now wants revenge for the injustice done to her by one of Derek’s scheming superiors. She now fights with a nail gun and a power saw.

We know the movie is a fantasy but it is also a satire on dog-eat-dog corporate culture where people can be nasty to each other to achieve their own concept of success. What makes it work is that we totally sympathize with Derek. Those who have toiled in a corporate job knows the feeling of being bullied by others or being cheated by unscrupulous people who don’t mind stepping on your toes just to get ahead in their shameless pursuit of corporate greed. It surely makes your blood boil but you hold it in check and conceal it, even if you’re already consumed by rage, about to explode and want to kill them.

This is what happens to Derek (and also to Melanie), so when they become unstoppable partners in crime and take things into their own hands, we side with them and we root for them. Every time they get into a bloody confrontation with the scumbugs who screwed them, we cheer for them. Yeun may look slight and lacking in height compared to the usual hunky action heroes we know, but he certainly makes up for it with his spunk and sheer determination. The scenes where he gets beaten up, then fights back with so much fury, are all staged in a believable and satisfying manner, cleverly spiced up with black humor.

Samara Weaving also makes her Melaine, with her demented smile, someone to be reckoned with. She has a surprisingly charming chemistry with Steve Yuen and they both perform their badass tag team with so much unbridled energy in the blood-soaked action scenes. The frenetically paced film has great sound design and the score’s use of very loud music in many sequences are all quite justified. And yes, it’s not only violence that they offer but also a steaming sex scene. No wonder it got an MTRCB rating of R-18 and is not shown in SM Cinemas.