Joe Lynch’s grisly corporate satire Mayhem follows a young lawyer’s mission to confront the company CEO that screwed him over. The lawyer (Steven Yuen) and everyone in the building has been infected with a virus known as ID7, which increases rage levels to deadly effect.
Mayhem is a populist tale of striking back against corrupt elites; the kind of sociopathic personalities who caused the great economic meltdown of the early 21st century or cover up their monumental fuck-ups with buck-passing. Despite a glib Hallmark card finale, which urges us all to be better people and reject materialistic values, Lynch has made a riotously fun splatter flick painting a grey corporate world blood red.
Lynch made his directorial debut with Wrong Turn 2: Dead End back in 2007. That film turned out to be better than it had any right to be. Then, a film that should have been a major step up turned out to be a bust. Knights of Badassdom took an age to get to our screens and was taken away from Lynch by the financial backers, who released their own version, which the director described dismissively as “Role Models with the little bit of blood they couldn’t cut out and were stuck with.” He’d aimed to make “The Goonies for grown-ups.”
Lynch is a talented filmmaker, a mix of James Gunn and a less obnoxious Eli Roth (if you want comparisons). He likes comedy, gore and is a director steeped in love of genre cinema. In 2014, he bounced back from the Badassdom debacle with a Salma Hayek actioner, Everly (despite being lumbered with a strange title that could mean anything, it’s satisfyingly good and Hayek excels).
Is Mayhem his most accomplished work to date? While Everly remains his best film so far, this latest serves as another neon sign to Hollywood reading: “I’m available for hire” (and studios should take note). Yuen is excellent as a man barely holding on to his last shred of decency in an environment with no values and is ably backed by co-stars Dallas Roberts, Samara Weaving (Hugo Weaving’s niece) and Kerry Fox as one of the boardroom baddies.