Mayhem Review The Nerdy Basement

‘Mayhem’ Review: Bloodsoaked Vengeance Executed To Near Perfection

There are often times when a film completely flies under my radar or lingers persistently in my radar that I completely miss them both in both instances; take that how you will. With 2024 officially here and with a stacked lineup of major blockbuster films and some intriguing smaller-budget/indie films, you can almost hand-pick which films will be considered hits, flops, sleepers, or absolute masterpieces. When it comes to Mayhem! (Farrang), directed by Xavier Gens, it falls under my personal sleeper film category. This film premiered during Fantasia 2023 and I did not catch wind of the film until I was preparing for my 2024 film and tv coverage plans. Upon first glance at this film’s trailer and images, I was immediately sold and anxiously wanted to check it out, and to my avail, I was able to watch it ahead of the film’s theatrical release. Needless to say that Mayhem! delivers.

Mayhem Review The Nerdy Basement
Courtesy of Thanaporn Arkmanon. An IFC Films Release.

The film follows a professional boxer named Sam (played by Nassim Lyes) who is just about to be released from prison on parole in France. Unfortunately for Sam, his past catches up to him and fast! The death of a now rival causes Sam to flee France and move to Thailand. Five years have now passed and Sam has built himself a loving family with his wife Mia and her daughter Dara, they also have a child on the way. Looking to purchase a piece of land to build a restaurant and further improve their lives, the cost of the land sends Sam on a job to earn enough money to outbid its current buyer.

A job gone wrong with an even worse turn of events leaves Sam’s wife and unborn child dead, and their daughter Dara kidnapped. What follows is a bone-breaking, blood-soaked quest for revenge to find Dara and guarantee her safety; if she is still alive, and if and when Sam finds her. The premise is straightforward. The film overall is not reinventing the wheel here when it comes to revenge quests in this snuff-like fashion. However, the execution and pacing of it all are what sells this film to me.

Sam’s motives are clear and intentional and Lyes does an incredible job leading and carrying this film on his shoulders to make his protective father role all that more believable. His supporting cast members no matter how small their roles are, are incredible in elevating not just the story but Lyes’ performance as well. Dara’s actor Chananticha, also does a swell job during her brief screen time and adds that emotional intention the story needs for you to rally behind Sam’s cause. Exceptional story deliverance aside, the highlights of the film are the film’s fight sequences, the direction of these fight sequences, and their choreography. Way too often we get long action sequences with an exaggerated amount of jump cuts and shaky cam. Most of Hollywood wants to give you the action, but wants to give you the action as hard and as quick as possible.

Mayhem Review The Nerdy Basement
Courtesy of Thanaporn Arkmanon. An IFC Films Release.

Mayhem! subverts that by bringing the viewer into the fight. The fights are extensive, engaging, and in your face. Gens does a great job at moving the camera’s perspective to add more weight and power to a punch or a kick. While not shying away from someone getting their eye gouged or their leg impaled. One fight in particular begins in a long hallway and leads up to an exhilarating sequence taking place on an elevator and it’s as close quarters as you can get when it comes to an all-out brawl and it’s probably my favorite action sequence of the film. Circling back to my previous point about Gens’ camera work; it’s what truly sells the fight sequence in this elevator. Add a layer of tension due to possible claustrophobia while three individuals are trying to kill you and you have a sequence that is as good as a scene from John Wick.

It may make some viewers cringe but I think it’s all in the best way possible. That’s all due to how immersive and engaging this specific fight sequence is. I’m harping on it a lot because it is the scene that stands out the most to me and delivers on Sam’s drive to save his daughter at all costs. Especially from someone who is trying to move past his troubled past and live a better life, but whose past has a grim hold on him that he seemingly cannot escape no matter how hard he tries. To make it all worthwhile we do get the happy ending for Sam with a nice twist. Which took me a little by surprise despite my initial suspicions. I’m a newcomer when it comes to Gens and Lyes’ work and Mayhem! has made me an immediate fan and I can only hope to see more from Gen and Lyes together. Talk about starting 2024 off with a bang! Mayhem is also a huge reason why I love international action films. They just know how to deliver almost every time.

Mayhem! arrives in theaters and on digital on January 5th.

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