Mayhem (Movie Review)

Last Updated on July 30, 2021

PLOT: When a rage-inducing virus breaks out in an office building, a former employee uses the madness to his advantage on a quest to get revenge on the CEO.

REVIEW: When you hear that director Joe Lynch has made a movie called MAYHEM about a (former) office drone fighting his way through a building full of people who have been infected with a virus that strips victims of their inhibitions, boosts stress levels, and makes them brutally violent, you might think you have a pretty good idea of what to expect from it. But while MAYHEM does occasionally reach the levels of bloody insanity I thought it would deliver, I was surprised by how much of it was bogged down in set-up and exposition.

The events of the film kick off eighteen months into an outbreak of the ID7 virus, also called the "red eye virus" because it always gives the infected one red eye. The Walking Dead alum Steven Yeun plays the lead character, Towers & Smythe Consulting employee Derek Cho, and is saddled with an overused narration that begins with Yeun having to spend a few minutes letting us know all about this virus – and the fact that the infected can't be prosecuted for the crimes they commit while the virus is coursing through their systems, since they're not able to control their emotions during that time.

That sets up the violence to come, but before we can get there we have to follow the overworked, underappreciated Derek through a disastrous workday that builds up to him getting fired. Front-loading the film with legal speak and shady dealings at a firm that is already corrupt, sleazy, and dangerous even before inhibitions are shed wasn't the most engaging way to get things started, as far as I'm concerned. A dedication to character and story is admirable and the dialogue and narration tried valiantly to get me interested in all the details, but I just could not connect with anything that was going on in the first 30 minutes of this film. 

Despite the presence of inherently likeable leads Yeun and Samara Weaving, who plays Melanie Cross, someone who has personal issues with Towers & Smythe, I was aching for MAYHEM to get on with it by the time the outbreak finally started causing trouble around the office and the CDC shows up to put the building in an eight hour quarantine.

Since the infected aren't liable for their actions, these eight hours are basically a contained, truncated PURGE night, and Derek and Melanie seek to use this to their advantage, fighting their way up the building by any means necessary so they can confront the cocaine-fuelled CEO (Steven Brand) and make sure he and his lackeys are held accountable for the terrible things they've done in the name of profit.

I would have little interest in sitting through the beginning of this film again, but it becomes much more entertaining and fun in the second half. Basically, once Derek strapped on a tool belt loaded with weapons and Melanie got her hands on a nail gun, my enjoyment of the movie increased exponentially. It's at that point when I could finally get in tune with what was playing out on the screen. I could finally sit back and enjoy the mayhem that's promised in the title. I also greatly appreciated seeing badass visuals paired with the cool score composed by Steve Moore.

MAYHEM is much like its lead character; dull and average until the virus shows up and allows it to lose its inhibitions. Through it all, Yeun delivers an excellent performance that proves fans have nothing to worry about now that he has moved on from The Walking Dead. That show was just his breakthrough into what is sure to be a solid career from here on out. Weaving also shows promise – if you enjoyed her performance in the recently released Netflix film THE BABYSITTER, you might find that she's even better here.

I had been looking forward to MAYHEM ever since it was first announced, and while I found the finished film to be somewhat disappointing, I do think it's worth watching for Yeun, Weaving, the events of the second half, and Lynch's stylistic touches. If you can get through that initial stretch of set-up, and maybe you'll have a higher tolerance for the business talk and expository narration than I did, the movie does reward you with some gleeful bloodshed and amusing scenarios.

Source: Arrow in the Head

About the Author

Cody is a news editor and film critic, focused on the horror arm of, and writes scripts for videos that are released through the JoBlo Originals and JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channels. In his spare time, he's a globe-trotting digital nomad, runs a personal blog called Life Between Frames, and writes novels and screenplays.