Main cast: Nicholas Hoult (Steven Stelfox), James Corden (Roger Waters), Georgia King (Rebecca), Craig Roberts (Darren), Edward Hogg (DC Woodham), and Tom Riley (Parker Hall)
Director: Owen Harris
Author John Niven scripted Kill Your Friends, based on his own novel of the same name, and then somehow managed not to cringe when this movie is marketed as the UK version of that pretentious, bloated American Psycho, for a new generation of viewers too young to have caught Christian Bale using a chainsaw as an eye-rolling substitute for his character’s penis. The marketing is accurate, though. This one is pretty much that movie, only it takes place in 1997, a time when the UK music scene is booming and every recording studio is looking for the next big unsigned act to milk for profit.
Steven Shelfox is one of these predatory A&R men. He doesn’t care for music, he only wants the job and the perks that come with it – women, drugs, and the heady sense of power. Kill Your Friends is basically about him going all out to be as vile as possible, and when he finds himself backed against the corner with the odds stacked against him, well, a little murder can fix anything. His rival is Parker Hall, an A&R man who is everything he isn’t – Parker is committed to his job, is genuinely passionate about music, and gets things done and, more importantly, knows a good unsigned act when he sees one. Also in this movie are Rebecca, Steven’s ambitious secretary and lover and DC Woodham, a cop investigating the murder of Steven’s colleague (guess who did it) but is willing to overlook some inconsistencies in Steven’s alibi as long as Steven gives him an in to become a songwriter for big acts, along with a slew of disposable twits.
Just like American Psycho, this one often breaks the fourth wall, and this one does it by often having Steven address the audience in the middle of a scene. The problem here is that, yes, evil can be cool to watch and even root for… provided that the evil blokes in question are charming, clever, or seductive. I must find the evil blokes fascinating to watch to watch their movie. Here, however, Steven never comes off as smart. He is described as talented and smart, but I get a whiny, twatty git who often seems to get lucky than anything else. Steven is not a cunning mastermind, he’s more like a whiny twat who just happens to have things lined up for him right, thanks to the script dictating it to be so.
It doesn’t make things any better by having Steven say smug things that come off frequently as dumb instead. “What’s that bender’s problem apart from the AIDS coursing through his veins?” he would snarl and I can only wince at how clumsy that line is. I hope John Niven didn’t pat himself too much for coming up such a line, because it just smacks of trying too hard. “These decisions are made under the influence of drugs, alcohol, peer pressure and fear,” Steven sneers at the camera, and I can only roll up my eyes, because it’s not like I can tell from all that coke Steven is snorting up his nose.
That’s the problem with this movie. The characters are all a bunch of unlikable wankers, but that doesn’t mean the movie has to be awful because of this. No, it is awful because the script aims for clever only to end up smug yet insipid. Nicholas Hoult tries with his role, but he mostly has to spend his time sneering or flailing around, although he (or his body double) flashes some rear end nudity to provide some distraction from the smug twatwafflery happening all over the place. Kill Your Friends has an insufferable pretentious try-hard twat vibe that it can never shake off, and so it ends up being a witless waste of time.
The soundtrack is fabulous, though – it’s worth checking out if you are a nostalgic fan of late 1990’s British pop and rock music.
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