Rating: 0 out of 5
There seems to be two generations of filmmakers almost entirely influenced by Tarantino. The first camp, the Guy Ritchie’s, the Martin McDonagh’s, whose favorite scene in Pulp Fiction is the iconic dialogue between John Travolta and Uma Thurman, witty, fast paced movies, almost too clever. Then there are those filmmakers who skip forward to the scene of a man’s head exploding, proceed to pound a Pabst Blue Ribbon before yelling “Awesome!”, throwing the can into the large pile building adjacent to the trash, chuckling with his buddies then watching it again. These were the film students who found themselves making Joe Lynch’s Mayhem, a film so frivolous, pointless and just plain mean, that it comes across as Jean Luc-Godard’s Weekend minus all that film’s immense, absurd, pretensions and sense of self importance. I never thought I’d want those things back but they displayed the follies, insecurities and political concerns of its creator, at the very least Godard was honest. Mayhem, however is an hour and twenty six minute visual and auditory bully.
The reason I compare it to Godard’s Weekend is how frightened I am by the filmmakers vision of human beings, there is no heart, they both feel like the town built in Blazing Saddles. There are no people. Despite the actors, both are completely devoid of humanity. Mayhem views it’s characters not as multi-dimensional humans but rather as tools to vent about it’s vague, indistinct frustrations with capitalism. Because this film has a bone to pick, it hurdles itself full throttle at the “corporations, man”, for eschewing compassion and creating lifeless drone workers. This is all fine, but for all the films loudness and action it becomes just as lifeless as the office routine it’s attempting to satirize. The film follows hopeful, young, upstart Derek Cho (Steven Yeun) as he grinds the corporate ladder of his law firm. A breezy and overly expository voiceover explains that his latest case set a legal precedent for a new virus that causes people to delve into their most base instincts, making them aggressive and uninhibited, which in the filmmakers view would be everyone having sex, murdering each other and writing “kill” in blood on ones skin. If this is everything the filmmaker is repressing on a day to day basis then he needs, and this comes from a place of concern, needs therapy because if we are to psychoanalyze the creators based on the content, their psyche probably looks pretty similar to the Dylan Baker character in Todd Solondz Happiness. The only virus in this films veins is hatred and self loathing.
Derek Cho is informed that his firm will be screwing him over making him the fall guy for dirty deeds by the higher ups running the company. Then through a turn of events the virus ends up in the ventilation system of the office building, everyone gets infected and due to the legal precedent set by Derek everyone is exonerated of their crimes because the virus made them do it. This would all be okay, if not for the fact that the man in Derek’s case had no motivation and zero premeditation, the virus led him to violence. Then Derek proceeds to kill all of his bosses for his own personal gain. That logic is frankly broken. He seems to be able to control the virus and direct it, which actually leads to an elaborate plan to take down the company, which for all their evilness, he is just as bad, maybe even worse. He uses the virus as an excuse to not only become the boss but gets revenge on everyone who screwed him over. I am no lawyer, but I’m pretty sure that is both premeditated and contains motive.
There is not a drop of creativity or thoughtfulness in this film, you think the filmmakers would have some fun choreographing these fights. There are so many weird ways to kill people in the office environment, staplers, computers, keyboards, chairs, desks, tables, drawers, neckties, coffee cups, but instead a nail gun is found pretty early on that dispatches baddies with a cold, disconnected, ease. It’s also hard to call these people bad guys because there are no good guys in this film. Amorality is fine but when the film doesn’t even contain a logic of it’s own that sets up: okay he’s a bad guy but here are the WORST guys. Many of the people who died are pawns just like Derek, and maybe it’s the virus that disables him from being aware of this but the people he’s killing may be just as “innocent” and “good natured” as he, as we learn, a lot of them were screwed over, even the ones who screwed Derek. Does the filmmaker have the virus? To quote the plot description for his own film he acts out his worst impulses.
Don’t watch this movie. Avoid it like the plague. If you like people and believe to some extent that there is goodness inside them, this is simply not the movie for you. If you appreciate logic, reason, plot, characters, really any base necessity for a film then please do not watch this movie, it will simply ruin your evening and every subsequent moment that the images or events pop into your head. As I write this last sentence there is an awful taste in the back of my throat, my head aches, my heart hurts, and I need a hug.