J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Mayhem: Office Rage

Towers & Smythe is supposedly a soulless corporate consultancy shingle where downtrodden Derek Cho plugs away, but it makes no sense to have them foreclosing on private homes and planning legal strategy for criminal law cases. Basically, they are a catchall for whatever evil doings might be perpetrated by men in Brooks Brothers suits. Ironically, recent events make it painfully clear the least ethical businesses in America are actually film studios, but that might hit too close to home. In any event, logic is supposed to go by the wayside when a crazy inhibition-lifting virus breaks out. The sharks of Towers & Smythe find themselves under so-called quarantine, but it is really just an invitation for Purge­-style bedlam, sans the hollow social commentary in Joe Lynch’s Mayhem (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

Poor Cho is the one stuck telling Melanie Cross Towers & Smythe has no intention of working with her to prevent foreclosure on her house (again, this makes no business sense). What comes around, goes around quite quickly, when he learns his rival has set him up to take the fall for a mishandled client shortly thereafter. Just as Cho is being escorted out of the building, the ID-7 virus hits. As fate would have it, Cho was the one who developed the legal strategy that resulted in legal immunity for the ID-7-infected, which is the sort of work he would never be doing at a company like Towers & Smythe.

In an effort to contain the loose cannons, Cho is chucked into the basement with the trouble-making Cross. A grudging alliance is quickly forged and the two are soon wreaking havoc on T&S’s property and client list. However, old man Towers figures ID-7 is a two-way street and therefore dispatches his goons to whack Cho and Cross, all of whom really have lost their moral-ethical inhibitions.

Basically, Mayhem is the horror-comedy version of The Raid, in which Cho and Cross fight their way up the building to the penthouse boardroom, floor by floor. On that level, it is a smashing success. Even though our protags are definitely out for payback, most of their kills are largely committed in self-defense.

To his credit, Lynch is not shy about drenching the film in blood and attitude. No sir, he is not. Yet, Mayhem really works because of immensely charming chemistry of its leads, Steven Yuen and Samara Weaving. It is just impossible not to root for these underdogs and hope their budding romance works out, even when they are killing and maiming with wild abandon.


Let’s put it this way, there is so much meathead fun in Mayhem, it will rekindle your 1990s enthusiasm for the Dave Matthews Band. Cho is a fan, so you’d better be too. Frankly, it really isn’t horror per se (and it sure as shooting isn’t “post-horror”), but it probably helps if you have a fan’s tolerance threshold for on-screen blood and ruthless sense of humor. Recommended for everyone who enjoys sensitive coming of age dramas and online cat videos, Mayhem opens tomorrow (11/10) in New York, at the Cinema Village.

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