Directed: Owen Harris
Starring: Nicholas Hoult, James Corden, Georgia King
I won’t lie, I’ve been excited for Kill Your Friends for a while now. When I first saw the trailer (which you can watch for yourself below) I was hooked, it looked like it was going to tick all my boxes – great soundtrack, great cast and it looked like it had cult written all over it. Based on the 2008 novel of the same name by Scottish author John Niven, the film is a jet black satire of the British film industry in the late 1990’s, when Britpop and the Spice Girls dominated the charts.
Our anti-hero (debatable) leading us through proceedings is Steven Stelfox (Nicholas Hoult), a 27 year old A&R man hellbent on success but not overly interested in music. Many critics have noted the likeliness to both American Psycho (2000) and Filth (2013), two films also based on excellent and extreme novels. This could be a reflection more on the source material than the film, but there is no doubt that Hoult’s Stelfox screams Christian Bale’s Patrick Bateman with his suave appearance, and damaged Bruce Robertson (James McAvoy) with his relentless ambition. However, it seems more as though Stelfox thinks of himself as a yuppie type, but his deluded sense of grandeur does not carry through – really he is no better than the inebriated characters he is surrounded by and sees himself as superior to.
James Corden is on excellent form as a hapless A&R goon, whilst Georgia King is surprisingly creepy as secretary Rebecca. They are by far the most interesting of the secondary characters, with the rest providing one not laughs but nothing of any substance.
The soundtrack is suitably excellent for the late 90’s setting, but the cinematography is lacking any excitement. Director Owen Harris has few cinematic credits and the majority of his directorial work appears to have been on TV shows such as Misfits and Secret Diary of A Call Girl, and this shines through on the shoddy production value.
That doesn’t stop the fun however, of which there is plenty, albeit in jet black form. The script is based on one produced by Niven himself, and so it is again perhaps due to the source material that the dialogue isn’t as quick or as memorable as something from an Irvine Welsh adaption. It also sometimes feels as though it is trying to shock for the sake of it, rather than lending itself to any kind of social commentary. That’s not to say there aren’t laughs throughout – and the talking to the camera/inner monologue made most memorable in recent times by The Wolf of Wall Street acts as an effective narrative device to let the viewer into the folds of Stelfox’s psyche.
Ultimately Kill Your Friends is a worth a watch, but pales next to the better movies of which it seems to lend from so heavily. You’ll enjoy it in the cinema, but on reflection it’ll come out feeling slightly empty, and there’s a good chance it’ll be forgotten within a year.