Mayhem – The Perfect Hyperbole of the Corporate Ladder

Earlier last year I looked at a film called the Belko Experiment. A dark comedy about office politics and nihilism that nothing matters in the end with such a huge travesty taking place. Each path lead to the same endgame. Now Mayhem is a similar beast in the sense of both insanity and the corporate setting and tone, but there is a kicker. There isn’t some big guy upstairs telling everyone to do something, this time it is themselves doing all the decision making because of a virus that unlocks all inhibitions and brings out deep seated feelings. Mayhem is less about the decisions made and more about the gruesome black comedy in place of a situation fixated on being intensely comedic. So does Mayhem’s more energized approach to the office politics pay off or does it simply fall into a campy gorefest with no mileage?

Steven Yeun is playing Derek Cho, a man who has thrown away his dignity and humanity for a shot at that corner office in a law firm. On the day the higher ups were firing him while making him become a scapegoat for their mistake, something wonderful happened. A virus that causes people to lose all emotional control and unleash deep seated emotions contaminates everyone in the firm. The positive of this outbreak is that thanks to a previous outbreak you can be found not guilty for any crimes committed while under the influence of the virus. That means the boys are back in town and roided up on some rage virus ready for some corporate restructuring! This story is just an absolute blast to go through. It layers the jokes upon jokes for the corporate atmosphere even having the man who earned his job through finding a loophole go on a rampage of killing those who fired him from a law firm because of a loophole. There is this manic energy that exudes through every shot once the outbreak happens. We see the mundane before we see the insanity ratcheted up to an 11. It is a simple build up that takes every advantage of its hyperbolic situation and characters, like the HR guy called the Grim Reaper, be set up for just the goriest amount of fun you will have all year.

This film is addictive, no doubts about that. There is this intensity that is unrelenting and brutal but so cathartic to watch in Mayhem. It sets up domino after domino to be set barrelling down throughout the outbreak who were given deliciously caricatures of the negatives of working in a corporate firm. It weaves this narrative of just pure raw catharsis that I do believe that many who live in a society similar to this or just in society today can find some happiness in watching its utter destruction. The office small talk and niceties fade away to primal rage and instinct unleashing something that is for all extents and purposes therapeutic to watch to some degree. You want to scream at the world, you want to do something about things that are unfair, but you can’t because that is how this world works. Joe Lynch offers an hour and thirty minutes in a world where we are not held down by our actions and for a moment we can feel relieved because we live through Derek. We see all our problems through such a powerfully underrated performance in Steven Yeun that makes this film in my eyes a triumph of a good time.

The way the film is structured is similar to like a video game if one wants to take that approach. The surreal notion of being able to kill all the corporate lackeys and the boss that tossed you out and treated you like crap only works as a type of video game black comedy. You play through each level figuring out ways to circumvent the problem and oh boy do they come up with some creative ways. Each boss of each level plays their roles perfectly, whether it is to be conniving or just purely physical. The film understands its tone perfectly and never ejects you from the violence on screen. It moves through the linear structure at breakneck speed with some funny moments of comedy like Steven Yeun trying to be calmed down by a government therapist in a pleasant tone.

What I like about this film is that it is almost like a look at our baser human emotions, but in an odd way only heightens their real selves. There is this dark side to humanity yes, but amongst people every so often there is those moments where you can certainly see something shining. Even in a work place like this where you can see the greed emanating off it, you find those willing to be doing the worst things for the best causes. Derek is a good man doing terrible things and I think that distinction offers something to think about. What made all those other people bad people? What in this hyperbolic scenario forces these people to succumb to their ids but in different ways? It could mean something or it could not, but it would be interesting if indeed there was a pattern to it in this film.

The part that I think is a bit tough to overlook is the same thing I praised, its linearity. I like how the design of the building and its linear structure make it feel like this unrealistic video game boss structure, but I also feel like it removes some effectiveness when it is easy to see what is going to happen. This film will not surprise you in any way (besides the humour) and if you are not taken in by both its premise and foothold it builds up in the first thirty minutes you won’t be absolutely sold on it. There is this predictable progression of what is going to happen and one can guess that it will only ramp up with insanity the higher Derek climbs the building. The ending as well kind of pales in comparison to what comes before becoming almost anti-climactic and cheesy. I didn’t dislike the ending, but I feel like it didn’t ride the high like the rest of the film even if it was quite cathartic. They move up a floor and fight the boss and when you reach the final boss you have lost a lot of the thugs the boss has along the way. We gain a lot of fun action sequences previously that by the end when they should be ramping it up more it settles for more of the same. It’s not bad, just not as engaging as the rest.

What makes Mayhem a must watch from last year is the pure thrill of it. It captures office politics in a stylishly dark way that I don’t think another film has. It’s ridiculous, it’s hyperbolic and it is just boatloads of fun. Where was this in the always mixed summer blockbuster seasons? This was one of the better action films of the year with great performances all around and a solid comedic basis to bring laughs to a great number of people. Yet this film remained obscure which is sad. It is a great stress reliever because it is pure escapism that mirrors reality but doesn’t feel real. It’s hyperbolic tone and story offers a very surreal trip into a world of loopholes, loss of inhibitions and complete lack of morality in the corporate ladder. Mayhem is certainly an underrated gem of 2017 creating one of the best action films of the year with a committed and truly great leading performance by Steven Yeun.

Rating: B+

I absolutely adored this film! It was probably the most fun I had watching a movie in 2017 and I could’ve seen this making the rounds in summer if it had a wide release. Just a bunch of wild fun with some slick humour and buckets of blood. To me it felt like a better executed Belko Experiment, one that captured the office experience in hyperbole without falling prey to the same trappings the other did.

Have you seen Mayhem? Why not? GO SEE IT NOW! RAAAAAAA!!!!!

I had to do that sorry haha! Are there any other hidden gems from 2017 that you felt have been criminally overlooked? Feel free to leave a comment down below and don’t forget to have yourself a marvelous day!

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