Climbing the corporate ladder can be a dog-eat-dog journey. That’s especially the case if you’re a lawyer. Legal firms have a reputation for heavy-duty internal fighting, double-dealing, and back-stabbing. Tough lawyers are often called sharks and opportunity is ‘blood in the water’. However, usually, the brutality is only on paper: promotions, demotions, pink-slips, foreclosures, hostile take-overs and the like. What if that weren’t the case? What if someone flipped a switch and turned off the inhibitions everyone (other than true psychopaths) has about acting out their wildest fantasies? Well, that’s exactly what happens in the 2017 film Mayhem.
Mayhem opens with a brief explanation by attorney Derrek Cho (Steven Yeun) of how he got his corner office. Derrek was the young attorney at Towers and Smythe Consulting (TSC), when he found a legal loophole for an important client, named Nevil Reed. Reed had committed the first known case of murder while under the influence of the ID-7 "Red Eye" virus. It’s an airborne, highly communicable infection that has been spreading throughout the world. It isn’t fatal, but infects neural pathways, removing all inhibition and moral integrity, resulting in people acting out their darkest impulses, including murder.
Derrek’s a rising star in the firm and he realizes that as he climbs the corporate ladder he’s become out of touch with friends and family and seems to have no moral compass. When a desperate client, Melanie Cross (Samara Weaving) comes to see him about a loan extension to save her home, Derrek doesn’t think he can help her and calls security on her when she won’t leave.
Just then Derrek finds out his boss Caroline ‘The Siren’ (Caroline Chikezie) has pinned the blame on him for bungling a major case for one of TSC’s biggest clients, Vandacorp. Suddenly Derrek finds himself in a desperate situation that ends with him being fired.
Just about that time, ID-7 is released inside the building’s ventilation system. The virus is detected and police mobilize and quickly quarantine the building. They pump the counteragent into the offices, but it will take 8 hours for the agent to neutralize the virus from the building and the inhabitants. Now it’s everyone for themselves inside the building as people’s inhibitions drop away.
Derrek is determined to reach the top floor boardroom and plead his case to the President and Board of Directors. He’s stopped by security and John Towers (Steven Brand) orders Derrek taken to the basement to ‘negotiate’. Security begins beating him and assaulting Melanie (who was never released from the building). Derrek’s one true friend in the company, Ewan (Mark Frost) shows up to help and is killed by security. That pushes the ID-7 infected Derrek over the edge. He attacks the security guards and, with Melanie’s help, defeats them. The two form an uneasy alliance and now are on a mission to reach the top floor so Melanie can save her home and Derrek can get revenge on the boss, John Towers, for the death of Ewan.
Mayhem is a stylish and action-packed film that weaves a ballet of violence as Derrek and Melanie climb higher and higher in the building. The ID-7 virus is a clever device for the film as it removes the moral and ethical considerations of this kind of action and even provides a form of for justification for the protagonists’ violent actions.
Mayhem is definitely not a film for everyone. However, if you are a fan of horror and action, and don’t mind over-the-top gore and violence, then you’ll enjoy the wild ride that this film takes you on. Definite kudos to Yeun and Weaving. Both actors manage to walk the fine line of portraying people driven over the edge and seeking revenge, without making their characters appear mindless, one dimensional, or even unsympathetic.
So if you’re in the mood for a sharply made film that takes you on a blood-soaked trip through the corporate world like playing levels in a first-person-shooter game, then you should check out Mayhem. But keep in mind the old adage about being careful who you step on when you climb your way to the top. They may take the elevator and be waiting for you… and if it’s Samara Weaving’s Melanie, she may have a nail gun.