Mayhem, the new action thriller from director Joe Lynch (Everly, Wrong Turn 2), is the kind of film that you hope and pray you’ll find when you attend a good genre film festival. After premiering at the 2017 SXSW festival, Mr. Lynch brought Mayhem to Chattanooga, Tennessee, and the packed theater was glad that he did.
Derek Cho (Steven Yuen) has climbed the ladder at his corporate law office. On the day that he learns his services may no longer be required by his bosses, a rage virus strikes his high-rise workplace. The aerosol cure is being pumped into the building, but it won’t eradicate the virus for eight hours. It’s survival of the fittest fueled by a slew of workplace grudges and betrayals that may have to be worked out the old-fashioned way.
Mayhem has style to burn. The action sequences have a “no cheating allowed” cleanliness to their cinematography that is reminiscent of the John Wick films. Each roundhouse to the face is felt by the audience. There are no annoying quick cuts blurring the proceedings.
While the editing is kinetic and flashy, this is not a case of form without substance. The script expertly injects small moments of character detail while simultaneously ratcheting up the suspense. You might not like all of the characters, but you understand each one’s personal drive to win during the unfolding carnage.
Steven Yuen (The Walking Dead) delivers a stellar leading performance. Many critics will mention his ethnicity and the wonderful “progress” reflected in his casting. Such comments are reductive to say the least. He’s a solid leading man. Period.
Samara Weaving (Ash v. The Evil Dead) holds her own and adds her name to the growing roster of 2017 kick-ass female action heroes. Among the supporting cast, Dallas Roberts (American Crime, Rubicon) delivers a deliciously eccentric performance as the head of Human Resources you definitely don’t want knocking on your office door.
Mr. Lynch has a good time sprinkling Mayhem with Easter eggs and homages to revered action films of the past. As the pair of leads share the contents of a toolbox to dismantle their adversaries, you’ll notice that the Asian lead of the film never selects the claw hammer as his weapon of choice (Oldboy anyone?). Much is made of Derek Cho’s coffee mug, and you should ask yourself where you may have seen the mug’s color scheme before. I’m sure there are many references I missed altogether during the frenzy. Hopefully, Mr. Lynch will bequeath a director’s commentary to us when the film hits home video.
That said, you can’t wait until Mayhem hits the streaming platform of your choice. It’s the kind of rollicking good time that demands the big screen experience. This action thriller needs to be seen with a crowd of like-minded film lovers.
The Movie Isle
Scott Phillips holds a degree in print journalism from the University of Georgia and is currently a member of the Georgia Film Critics Association (GAFCA). In addition to his role as a correspondent for Timed Edition, Scott serves as the Executive Editor and Senior Writer for themovieisle.com. From 2013 through 2017, he reviewed films for filmdispenser.com. Along with his duties as a critic, Scott serves as the Content Programmer for the Way Down Film Festival held in Columbus, Georgia every fall.