Excess has gone from being a cinematic trope to basically its own genre in recent years. The Wolf of Wall Street, Spring Breakers, Filth and even that Michael Bay thing Pain & Gain, have all poured out of the broken ground laid down by films like American Psycho and Wall Street. Enter Kill Your Friends, the latest film to try and show us a new and exciting take on snorting cocaine off a hooker’s arse.
Adapted from John Niven’s 2008 novel of the same name, Kill Your Friends follows venomous A&R man Steven Stelfox (Nicholas Hoult), the crown prince of a major record label that’s high off the fumes of Britpop and Cool Britannia in the mid-90’s. We’re guided by Stelfox as he lies, manipulates and kills his way up the rungs of a music industry where “no one knows anything”.
Lathered in satirical black humour and unflinching sex, drugs and violence, Kill Your Friends invites a clear comparison with its blood brother American Psycho. Interior monologue, breaking the 4th wall and even a music themed kill (Paul Weller gets the Huey Lewis treatment). The film almost seems like it’s working off a Patrick Bateman shaped template, never stepping outside of its predecessor’s shadow.
Hoult revels as the psychotically ruthless Stelfox, a man who despises the artists and colleagues he works with for their lack of taste in music and drug-centred lifestyle, but will gladly sign talentless DJs and party with the best of them. Because behind the muso façade, all he cares about is the profit. He’s the music industry incarnate, and just as you would imagine if you met the music industry in human form, he’s a complete arsehole. Despite Hoult trying his best, Stelfox comes across despicable and unsympathetic, as do all the characters, which makes it impossible to care about anything that’s going on.
However, much like American Psycho, Kill Your Friends isn’t really about the characters and who lives or dies. It’s about the world our characters inhabit. Stelfox’s music industry is a place where the rules of natural selection still apply. Where your prey aren’t hiding from you playing dead, but they’re your friends and you’ll happily destroy them if it means getting ahead of them.
It’s an interesting look at the world of business but the film does nothing with it, preaching the same message at the start as it does at the end. There are no questions asked for the audience to answer making anything the film has to say only skin deep.
Kill Your Friend has its bells and whistles in a Trainspotting inflected visual style and a 90’s nostalgia soundtrack to match. Both of these are used well in a standout scene involving Radiohead’s Karma Police. However, it ultimately feels like a collage of better films and a stagnant, onenote social commentary which makes for one very ironic looking broken record on the poster.
2 / 5
Dir: Owen Harris
Scr: John Niven
Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Tom Riley, Rosanna Arquette, James Corden
Prd: Gregor Cameron
DOP: Gustav Danielson
Music: Junkie XL
Run time: 103 mins
Kill Your Friends is in cinemas now.