The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan



Mayhem is the second movie this year, following The Belko Experiment, to feature murderous activity inside a corporate office building. It's a concept with undeniable potency. What is big business if not a cutthroat atmosphere? Taking that to the extremes makes a lot of sense. In this case, the idea is presented with a heavy dose of dark humor and buckets of blood. Director Joe Lynch (Knights of Badassdom) delivers a big, crazy genre picture that isn't afraid to go for broke.

Steven Yeun (The Walking Dead) plays Derek Cho, a consultant for a gigantic law firm. He discovers that the higher-ups are plotting to make him the fall guy for a mistake that deeply impacted one of their biggest clients. Derek wants to appeal his case to the boss (Steven Brand), but doesn't have access to the highest floors of the building. He also has to deal with an angry client, Melanie Cross (Samara Weaving), looking to avoid a foreclosure brought on by a bank the firm represents.

Derek's day gets worse when a viral outbreak occurs. The building is quarantined, while the people inside become infected with a virus that causes their ids to rage out of control. There's fornicating and vicious fighting everywhere. Derek and Melanie decide to use this to their advantage, getting their rage on as they attempt to reach the top floor and confront the man in charge, along with the secretive board of directors.

Of course, all sorts of carnage follows. Our heroes face multiple obstacles, including Derek's unscrupulous manager (Caroline Chikezie) and an off-the-books muscle man who works in the basement. All the supporting characters are very interestingly conceived, meaning that it's fun to watch Derek and Melanie encounter, and usually battle, them. Those battles are staged with style and grit by Lynch, who clearly understands that we will become more invested in the action when we feel as though we know the participants. He finds just the right balance.

Yeun and Weaving are great choices for the lead roles. Both capitalize on the edgy comedic aspect of the plot, conveying how their characters embrace the virus as a means of empowerment. The subtext of the story is that the “little guys” in a major corporation are pawns, subject to the whims of those in control. Worse, they have almost no recourse in unfair situations because the balance of power is so skewed. The actors capture the fantasy – which many viewers will doubtlessly respond to – of tipping the scale in the other direction. Derek and Melaine become increasingly cheerful the longer their fight goes on, since they see the direct results of fighting dirty, just as the firm's bigwigs have taught them.

There is so much bloodshed in Mayhem that it might prove a small bit exhausting for some viewers. (You could, pun intended, call it overkill.) Nonetheless, this is a stylish, wickedly funny, and impressively satiric movie – one which builds to a most satisfying conclusion. Revenge pictures are a dime a dozen. This one stands out.

( out of four)

Mayhem is rated PG-13 for bloody violence, pervasive language, some sexuality/nudity, brief strong language, and drug use. The running time is 1 hour and 26 minutes.

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