At a key moment during a gory melee in the horror-comedy “Mayhem,” two characters put down their nail guns for a minute to argue about the artistic merits of the Dave Matthews Band. Is this digression annoyingly glib, or fun? How viewers react may determine whether they appreciate the rest of the movie.
Written by Matias Caruso and directed by Joe Lynch (who also made the kooky and stylish “Knights of Badassdom” and “Everly”), “Mayhem” stars likable “Walking Dead” castoff Steven Yeun as Derek, an ambitious but still conscientious lawyer who sees his competitive firm turn downright Darwinian after the office is infected with a virus that turns humans homicidal.
Intended as a satire of corporate amorality, the movie’s message is too pat to have much impact. It’s also odd that so much of the cast is made up of British and Australian actors, who struggle to maintain American accents whenever the action’s heated.
One of those imports — Samara Weaving, playing someone cheated by Derek’s firm — does brighten the picture, giving the hero a charming partner as he fights his way past literally bloodthirsty associates on his way to take down his evil bosses.
That said, while Lynch has experience delivering breezy action, “breezy” can shade into “frivolous” — or even “forgettable.” As good as Yeun and Weaving are, there’s not a lot here that hasn’t been done. That doesn’t make “Mayhem” bad. Call it an acquired taste that not everyone will find palatable.
Rated: R, for bloody violence, pervasive language, some sexuality/nudity and drug use
Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes
Playing: Monica Film Center, Santa Monica