Director: Owen Harris
Starring: Nicolas Hoult, Tom Riley, Georgia King, Craig Robert, James Corden and Rosanna Arquette
Release Date: Nov 6
Stephen Stelfox (Nicolas Hoult), a record label representative working at the height of the 90’s Britpop era, pushes the limits of his power. He indulges in sex, drugs and other bad behaviour while going to extraordinary lengths to rise in the ranks of his prestigious workplace.
Based on the novel by John Niven, Kill Your Friends has a lot of charm and smart pace to it. Right from the get-go, there’s a strong attitude and style that jumps right out at you and holds your attention. It’s very engaging and makes for an enjoyable watch.
The film leans heavily on its lead as Hoult jumps about, engaging with the characters that surround him, all of whom he believes he’s got pegged. There’s a lot of Hoult talking to the camera, showing his true intentions and thoughts on each matter. The whole thing is very House of Cards.
In fact, there’s a strong David Fincher influence throughout the movie.
The film starts off by exploring the different aspect of Stelfox’s career and how cutthroat the music industry is. But it also shows the depravity and drug use that frequently slips between the cracks. Meanwhile the film has a recurring subplot of Stelfox’s desire to be at the top of his department, with an uneasy suggestion about how far he’s willing to go.
The problem with the film though is that as soon as those aspects are well established (roughly halfway into the movie’s duration), Kill Your Friends doesn’t really know where to go next.
Considering the setting and themes, one would assume that the movie has a strong commentary on the British music industry using the history of success in the 90s as a platform. Oddly enough, the movie doesn’t really explore this area all that much.
There are a couple of clever references peppered here and there, a few familiar tracks and elements of pop culture included… and that’s about it. The film focuses far more on the psyche and vulnerable sanity of its lead which frankly feels like a story that could have been told in any context.
Regardless of this, Hoult submits an excellent performance. While his very youthful appearance gets in the way of allowing him to be a seen in a confident adult role, we are only really aware of this at the beginning, and is soon forgotten.
Despite an uncertain arc and a somewhat repetitive voice over narration, Hoult does assist strongly in holding the film together.
The surrounding cast can do no wrong either, although it is strange to see Rosanna Arquette’s name make an appearance in the opening credits when she appears in a single, and not altogether necessary, scene.
Despite feeling like something of a lost opportunity, there is a decent entertainment value in Kill Your Friends. As said, it’s engaging and well-paced, even though the audience may often be slightly at a loss as to what exactly the film’s events are leading towards.
There is still a visceral sharpness and atmosphere in the film’s illustration of tension and underlying seediness. Although at times it feels much like the film is incidentally glamourising the bad behaviour in the movie. Just a bit.
Kill Your Friends is nothing new, it has no real substance or commentary…but it isn’t a dull film either. It crosses elements of films like 24 Hour Party People with the likes of Taxi Driver or, more specifically, American Psycho, but these all end up feeling like surface details.
With some decent tension and intriguing subplots, Kill Your Friends is an enjoyable thriller with more style than substance. Fun, but nothing special.
Written by Seamus Hanley
*On a side note, a recent televisual release from the director, a BBC movie by the name of The Gamechangers about the production and controversy of the Grand Theft Auto video games, proved to have the same issues as this film.
Like Kill Your Friends, it illustrates a story concerning the industrial side of a pop-cultural phenomenon but turns out being a style over substance endeavor with little to no commentary over its subject matter.