Sponsor

New Release Review - KILL YOUR FRIENDS

An A&R man turns to murder in an attempt to advance his career.

Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

Directed by: Owen Harris

Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Craig Roberts, Ed Skrein, James Corden, Rosanna Arquette


"Stylistically, Kill Your Friends resembles a product of the era it's aping, all smartass voiceovers and redundant flashy visuals; make of that what you will, but I grew tired of this post-Trainspotting style of storytelling two decades ago."





In recent years, the rose-tint of nostalgia has led many to declare the 1990s a decade of great artistic importance, but my memory of the era is one of a cultural wasteland. Movies were mediocre, as American indies followed the lead of Kevin Smith and Quentin Tarantino in shunning visual storytelling for talky drama, and world cinema was at an all time low in terms of quality. Today we have more auteurs than we know what to do with, but back then only a handful of interesting filmmakers emerged.
The musical landscape was even bleaker. For every nasally Brit pop band there were 10 one hit wonders - usually from continental Europe or Scandinavia - as the infiltration of dance music into the mainstream shoved songwriting into the background. It's against this backdrop that Owen Harris's directorial debut, Kill Your Friends, an adaptation of a 2008 novel by John Niven, serving as screenwriter here, takes place.
It's 1997, and London is the centre of the 'Cool Brittania' movement. Steven Stelfox (Nicholas Hoult) is a mid-level A&R man at record label Unigram. He's ruthlessly determined to get ahead in the industry, despite confessing no interest whatever in music ("My favourite records are the ones that sell"). He borrows his life motto from Conan the Barbarian - "To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women." - and takes this advice literally, murdering a colleague who has just won a promotion ahead of him. With a wannabe songwriter detective investigating and pestering him, Steven must juggle his coke and drink habits with staying out of prison and advancing his career.
Just as the recent Mississippi Grind is a derivative love letter to California Split, Kill Your Friends is a movie as imitative of American Psycho as it's possible to fashion. Christian Bale used the role of Patrick Bateman to shake off his child star past, and that seems to be the case with Hoult here, who similarly buffed himself up, though Steven's six-pack abs seem out of step with his lifestyle and habits. Harris and Niven have simply transferred the story from '80s New York to '90s London, swapping Wall Street trading for the record biz. A&R somewhat awkwardly becomes "assault and retribution" in the way mergers and acquisitions became "murders and executions." Hoult does his best to rival Bale's dead-eyed performance, but the script lacks the sort of killer lines on offer to the Welshman.
Stylistically, Kill Your Friends resembles a product of the era it's aping, all smartass voiceovers and redundant flashy visuals; make of that what you will, but I grew tired of this post-Trainspotting style of storytelling two decades ago.



discussion by