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Film / Mayhem

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Mayhem is a 2017 action/horror film directed by Joe Lynch and starring Steven Yeun, Samara Weaving, and Steven Brand.

It tells the story of Derek Cho (Yeun), a young lawyer making his way in a world beset upon by a virus that temporarily causes its victims to lose their inhibitions and morality and act purely upon their desires and emotions. Significantly, Cho works for the law firm responsible for the legal decision that the infected are not responsible for crimes committed while under the effects of the disease, and Cho himself is the lawyer who successfully argued the case.

This doesn't save him, however, when the firm needs a scapegoat for a botched case. Despite having nothing to do with it, Cho seems doomed to lose his job and face the legal consequences for the firm's mistakes... At least until armed police arrive and quarantine the building. It seems the virus has made its way inside, and Cho soon realizes that he, along with everyone else, is infected. Now legally able to do whatever he wants until the quarantine expires, Cho teams up with a victim of the firm's practices (Weaving) and sets out in search of revenge.


This film contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Action Girl: All of the infectees revel in violence, male and female alike, but Melanie demonstrates herself to be particularly competent and deadly in combat.
  • Action Survivor: Melanie and Derek are ordinary people with no particular combat background that we know of. Nevertheless they overcome numerous deadly challenges placed in their path through sheer determination and on-the-fly ingenuity.
  • Affably Evil/Faux Affably Evil: Lester "The Reaper" McGill, while cold and cruel, never deliberately antagonises Derek, preferring to remain cool and professional.
  • Anti-Hero: Derek starts out as a Corrupt Corporate Executive whose only goal is to kill Towers for firing him. He gradually warms up to Melanie and realizes that he's a slave to the grind, although being infected, he's still ruthless.
  • Advertisement:
  • Arc Words: "No one raindrop thinks it caused the flood."
  • Artistic License – Gun Safety: Melanie fires a nail gun like a pistol, but nail guns have safety features that prevent this. To fire a nail, you need to pull the trigger while at the same time depressing a switch around the barrel (such as by pressing it against a surface to be nailed).
  • Asshole Victim: Everyone that Derek and Melanie kill during their rampage has it coming.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: After watching Derek murder their boss, the Board hands Derek control of the company. He accepts it just long enough to take Melanie's house out of foreclosure.
  • Author Appeal: As with Knights of Badassdom, Joe Lynch puts his love of heavy metal on display, with Melanie being an unapologetic fan.
  • Ax-Crazy: Worst case scenario for anyone infected by the ID-7 virus, giving in to their worst (or stupidest) impulses.
  • Badass Boast: Derek gives one before the fight with the accounting department.
  • Batman Gambit: Melanie and Derek pull one on Irene Smythe. They lure her to a meeting, knowing she will set up some sort of ambush. They arrive early and figure out what she had in store so that they can nullify it.
  • Beleaguered Assistant: Every personal assistant in the law firm is abused by their superior. Even Derek is a bit of a dick to his, though his is at least male.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Melanie hates Derek for being a part of the law firm that screwed her over. Even after teaming up with him, it takes a while for her to stop hating him. And then they have sex.
  • Black-and-Grey Morality: Our protagonists are a bitter employee and a bitter client of a law firm out for blood against the directors. They'll be a straight up Villain Protagonist duo if the CEO (and basically everyone else) wasn't such a murderous Jerkass, or if they didn't have the ID-17 virus to excuse their actions. Though to be fair, save for Smythe and Towers at the end, Derek and Melanie never hurt or kill anyone except in self-defence, and attempt to retrieve the keycards from the Reaper, the Siren and Irene Smythe peacefully.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: The Bull empties his firearm and decides to fight Derek hand to hand, dismissing guns as cowardly. Naturally, it doesn't go as planned. Justified in that he too is affected by the virus, which causes him not to act rationally.
  • Call-Back: Derek promises to take Melanie to a Dave Matthews Band concert after this is all over. After they have sex, he plays their song "Ants Marching" on his phone.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Everyone who works at the law firm of Towers and Smythe. Derek himself is on this path as the movie begins, and his conscience is fighting a losing battle against it. Ironically, it takes murdering several people while under the effects of a Hate Plague to cure himself of these tendencies.
  • Crapsack World: A subtle example. The world appears normal in all respects, except for a Hate Plague that can descend at any time and potentially turn you into a killer and/or get you killed. It says a lot when, at the end of the film, it is revealed that nobody was making it a priority to develop a vaccine for this virus until it struck the law firm that had made the virus's effects excusable.
  • Cultured Badass: We get hints of this from Derek throughout the film, from his skill at painting to his knowledge of Roman history.
  • "Die Hard" on an X: Die Hard during a Hate Plague! The Bull is very much an Expy of Karl from the first film, and it's noteworthy that John McTiernan is given a special thanks during the credits.
  • Dirty Coward:
    • Derek, at first. He would much rather have security take Melanie out of the building than to face Irene Smythe.
    • The Reaper, despite his calm demeanour even when cornered, also counts for this in his combat style. He flees into his office when Derek and Melanie find him, attacks Melanie when she is lying stunned on the ground and after sliding his keycard on the table, impales Derek's hand with scissors and attempts to kill Melanie.
  • Evil Cripple: The Reaper, who needs a cane to walk (which resembles a scythe) and hasn't a molecule of compassion in his body.
  • Five-Man Band: Villainous example. The leadership of the firm. With the exception of Irene, they are all credited by their nicknames which cement their roles.
    • The Big Bad: John "The Boss" Towers - the firm's ruthless and amoral CEO. The virus hardly even seems to make him a worse person, just a bit more reckless.
    • The Dragon: Irene Smythe - Towers' partner in the firm and head of the board of directors. Holding both the pass key to the top floor and the solution to Melanie's mortgage woes, she serves as the most daunting obstacle for the heroes on their quest to confront Towers.
    • The Brute: Colten Schneider - Towers' enforcer and executioner, whose codename is "The Bull."
    • The Evil Genius: Lester "The Reaper" McGill - the firm's director of Human Resources, whose job amounts to little more than firing people and convincing them to take hefty severance packages in exchange for their silence.
    • The Dark Chick: Kara "The Siren" Powell - a manipulative female lawyer who bullies everyone beneath her and manipulates everyone above her.
  • Evil Brit: Irene Smythe and Kara "The Siren" Powell.
  • Evil Redhead: Meg, whose psychotic symptoms are significantly more pronounced than most, even by the standards of The Virus.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Subverted. Towers is horrified by Ewan's death - because of the billable hours he lost until he could find a replacement.
  • Foot Focus:
    • The Siren is shown passing between her work-out shoes and stiletto heels that she has stashed below her desk.
    • Melanie makes a point of finally swapping out of her stilettos when confronted with the gang of mooks the Siren has assembled to protect herself.
    • In universe, Irene Smythe is revealed to have a thing for foot fetish porn.
  • Foreshadowing: Derek narrates that the death gesture during gladiatorial combat was a thumbs turned, with the board of directors doing the throat slit gesture to fire him. They do so again in the end, giving Derek the go ahead to throw Towers to his death.
  • Freud Was Right: When Derek and Towers face off, Derek has a small wrench, while Towers has a golf club. Towers smirks and says, "Mine's bigger!"
  • Funny Background Event: Too many to name. Since the virus causes the infected to act on their basest emotions, just about every scene involving background extras shows them brawling, fornicating, sticking post-it notes all over themselves. A special mention, however, comes following the death of the Siren, who, in the wake of her demise is left on the floor with her face being ground up by her own treadmill!
  • Gory Discretion Shot: The deaths of Irene and Kara are two of the most important in the film, but in both cases the camera cuts away just as their attackers strike the fatal blow.
  • Handicapped Badass: The Reaper, who has a crooked leg and requires a cane to walk, doesn't seem like much of a threat at first. But his superhuman reflexes make him difficult to harm and deadly in a fight.
  • Hated by All: Nobody likes Towers, not even the Nine, er, the Eight, as evidenced by them giving Derek the okay to throw him off the balcony.
  • Hate Plague: The virus can have this effect, but it's not guaranteed, and sufferers show themselves to be perfectly capable of thinking and acting coherently while under its effects. But they care less about consequences and behave more recklessly, and if they have the opportunity to deal with someone they don't like it makes it far more likely that they'll just go ahead and do it.
  • Humiliation Conga: Derek goes through this in the latter half of the first half hour: set up for a botched legal case, humiliated, insulted, fired, beaten up, forced to watch his friend die and imprisoned, waking up to being spat on and beaten up by an angry client.
  • Improvised Weapon: Only the Bull and his security force have actual weapons. Most characters make due to with found objects like scissors, golf clubs and nail guns.
  • Ironic Echo:
    • When Lester "the Reaper" McGill first appears at Derek's office, he asks for permission to come in, which Derek replies with "What if I said no?", and comes in anyway. When Derek confronts the Reaper laster on, Derek sarcastically asks the Reaper for permission to come in, with the Reaper asking "And if I said no?".
      • When Derek points out the clause forcing him to accept responsibility for the botched lawsuit, Lester replies with "I'll have to file that under N for Not my problem". During their office confrontation, Derek retorts the Reaper's excuses with "I'm gonna file that under N for not my fucking problem".
      • During the confrontation, Derek also quotes "No one raindrop thinks it caused the flood", which Melanie first quoted in their meeting.
  • Kick the Dog: Towers pisses on Ewan's corpse in a video chat with Derek.
  • Loophole Abuse: Derek's entire plan hinges on this. He makes it clear from the beginning that he believes the infected are culpable for their actions and he himself displays plenty of capacity for calm, rational thought. But he's well aware of the legal protections afforded the infected - having been part of the court decision that granted them in the first place - and intends to use them to his full benefit. Towers understands this as well and calls him on it early on.
  • Metalhead: Melanie. A song from Rivers of Nihil can be heard blasting in her headphones, and when Derek asks her her top 3 bands, she lists Motörhead, early Anthrax, and Dirty Rotten Imbeciles. To top it off, she wears t-shirt of The Black Dahlia Murder under her work shirt and suitcoat.
    Melanie: Metal till I fucking puke!
  • Mundane Made Awesome: In the first act, the various denizens of the law firm are treated as supervillains, which becomes a bit more true after everyone is infected with the virus.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Towers, played by the Scottish actor Steven Brand, can just barely keep an American accent when he's enraged.
  • Pet the Dog: Derek sees an employee aggressively berating another employee, Jenny, then pulls him aside to show him a video of a woman sucking him off. He then threatens to send it to his wife if he doesn't leave Jenny alone. This wasn't entirely altruistic, however, since Derek explained shortly after that he did it to help himself sleep better at night. It doesn't help that he snags a pen from her desk without her permission shortly after.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: The Reaper tries to justify himself by saying that he's just doing his job. This may or may not be true, given his treatment of Melanie whilst he is infected.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Infected can be distinguished by a single bloodshot eye (usually the left eye for men and the right eye for women, but it varies).
  • Shout-Out:
  • The Starscream:
    • The Siren's beleaguered assistant sells her right out in exchange for a promotion.
    • The board of directors behave this way toward John Towers to a man, encouraging Derek to kill him, knowing how much they will personally profit from the former's death.
  • Take That!: Melanie derisively asks Derek if he assumed she liked Dave Matthews Band. Derek does come to the band's defense, though.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Derek clearly hesitates when it comes time to kill John Towers. Naturally, John thinks this is a great time to start taunting Derek about how weak he is.
  • Up to Eleven: Stated word-for-word by Derek when describing the effect of the virus on his emotions.
  • What, Exactly, Is His Job?: It's pretty sad when your company's head of human resources is dubbed "The Reaper." He seems not to perform any of the normal functions of a human resources director at all beyond firing people, and seems to be the firm's specialist in internal blackmail and intimidation.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Meg isn't seen again after she kills her boss.
  • What You Are in the Dark: When he finally reaches the top floor, Derek is offered a partnership contract by Towers. He seems to actually be considering it for a little while ... until his mind turns to Melanie and he violently refuses the offer.
  • Would Hit a Girl:
    • Derek punches Melanie in the stomach after waking up to her spitting on him in the basement. He also punches out one of Towers' female assistants after she attempts to kill him.
    • Later, the Reaper attacks a stunned Melanie with his cane while remarking on "gender equality".