Joe Lynch's 'Mayhem' Is The Executive Takedown That Subordinates Can Only Dream About

By James Jay Edwards
Released: November 10, 2017
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A virus spreads through a office complex causing white collar workers to act out their worst impulses.

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Film Review
Ever since the first episode of the seventh season of "The Walking Dead" (spoiler alert) killed off the character of Glenn Rhee, fans have been wondering what actor Steven Yeun has been doing. Rest assured, he's still been kicking tail in director Joe Lynch's Mayhem.

Mayhem is set in a quasi-futuristic world where a virus called the Red Eye Virus gets rid of the human decency in everyone it infects. The problem is so rampant that the judicial system has come up with a "Red Eye Defense" for infected people who commit crimes, basically absolving them of responsibility for their actions while they are under the influence of the virus. And the virus causes most people to turn into bloodthirsty killers.

Samara Weaving as Melanie Cross in the horror, action film MAYHEM, an RLJE Films release. Photo courtesy of Sanja Bucko.

A real estate attorney named Derek Cho (Yeun) is unceremoniously fired from his job on the same day that the virus is detected in the company's building. Also quarantined in the building is a young woman named Melanie Cross (The Babysitter's Samara Weaving) who was denied mortgage relief. When the people in the building start showing symptoms of the Red Eye virus, Derek and Melanie team up, sensing a chance to gain some revenge on their common enemies without any legal repercussions. Security is tight, though, and the pair must fight their way through tons of obstacles before they reach The Boss (Steven Brand from MTV's "Teen Wolf") and his executive team who are all hiding upstairs in the penthouse office.

Mayhem was directed by Joe Lynch (Everly, Knights of Badassdom) from a screenplay by Matias Caruso (2014 winner of The Page International Screenwriting Awards). It's not the most creative narrative, but the causation behind it is wildly entertaining. The best way to describe Mayhem is the mission of The Raid: Redemption meets the anything-goes of Battle Royale in the office building of The Belko Experiment. That's a lot of carnage, and Mayhem earns every bit of it.

(L-R) Steven Yeun as Derek Cho and Samara Weaving as Melanie Cross in the horror, action film MAYHEM, an RLJE Films release. Photo courtesy of Sanja Bucko.

Although it's built on a sweet premise, and it's packed with clever and exciting action, Mayhem suffers from the same malady that plagued Lynch's Everly. Mainly, it's got a bunch of corny, on-the-nose dialogue. Yeun and Weaving save their roles by playing them with a bit of a wink and a nudge, and the action in the movie overshadows the conversations anyway, so it's not too distracting, but when the fighting does let up, the audience can't wait for it to get started again, if only to shut the brainless talking down for a few brutally violent minutes.

Mayhem is a creative idea, but the film gets bogged down from time to time in what might be considered a bunch of standard B-movie archetypes. That's both a blessing and a curse. For such an inventive concept, there's not much in the film that viewers haven't seen before. But the movie owns that fact. In the narrator's own words, "(we) wrapped this story up in a nice little bow and we pretty much just killed a bunch of people. I live with that." So does Joe Lynch. And his audience. It's nothing to be ashamed of.
Action Sequences
A good chunk of Mayhem is composed of knock-down, drag-out fight scenes, and for the most part, they're very well done. The fight choreography is meticulous and the stunt work is top-notch. There are no rules to the combat, and because it all essentially takes place in an office building, the fighters are forced to get creative with their weaponry, which leads to some unique kills. And we're not just talking letter openers or staplers; there are nail guns and claw hammers in play, too. Most of the action is done on a budget, so there aren't any huge pyrotechnic displays in Mayhem. What there is, though, is a lot of ruthless, hand-to-hand combat and executive-style takedowns. A lot of people dream of taking out their boss. Mayhem lets them vicariously live that dream.

Steven Yeun as Derek Cho in the horror, action film MAYHEM, an RLJE Films release. Photo courtesy of Sanja Bucko.
Scary Factor
Because his first movie was the direct-to-video sequel Wrong Turn 2: Dead End, director Joe Lynch is often pigeonholed as a horror filmmaker, but truth be told, most of his output since has fallen into the action/adventure genre. And Mayhem fits that mold, too. Aside from a handful of impressive gore gags, there's not much to be afraid of in the movie. It would have been easy for Lynch to steer the film into rage virus territory à la 28 Days Later..., but he seems comfortable keeping it in the realm as fun thrillers like Die Hard. And honestly, Mayhem is a better film because of it. It's violently exploitative, and that works much better than if it were horrifyingly scary.

Steven Yeun as Derek Cho in the horror, action film MAYHEM, an RLJE Films release. Photo courtesy of Sanja Bucko.

Action, Horror
Release Date
November 10, 2017
Production Designer
Music Score