KILL YOUR FRIENDS (UK/18/103mins)
Directed by Owen Harris. Starring Nicholas Hoult, Craig Roberts, Ed Skrien, James Corden, Georgia King, Edward Hogg, Tom Riley, Rosanna Arquette.
THE PLOT: Stephen Stelfox (Nicholas Hoult) is an amoral, arrogant and manipulative A&R man in the 1990s. Determined to find the next big thing – despite hating music – Stephen is willing to take down anyone who gets in his way… Often literally.
THE VERDICT: Based on John Niven’s book of the same name, ‘Kill Your Friends’ is the story of sex, drugs and rock and roll, but not on the part of the bands this time, on the part of the people behind the music, signing the bands. It is clear that Nicholas Hoult had a whale of a time playing the rather horrible Stephen, and this fun is infectious. While there is very little to actually like about this character, it is hard not to root for this violent anti-hero as he fights for his slice of the pie. Hoult is manic and manipulative, and has rarely been better.
The rest of the cast is made up of Ed Skrien, Craig Roberts, James Corden, Georgia King, Edward Hogg, Tom Riley, Jim Piddock and Rosanna Arquette in a blink and you’ll miss it role. They all do well with what they are given, but they definitely take their cues from Hoult here, as he curses, snorts and exploits his way through the film.
John Niven’s book was inspired by experiences he had working in the music business in the 1990s, and there is a feeling that there is something real about the entire film. The script stumbles, however, in too closely following the structure of a novel, and relying a little too heavily on Hoult’s admittedly necessary (but not that necessary) and entertaining voice over.
As director, Owen Harris makes sure the audience is painfully aware of just how dangerous the music business can be. The performances are great, but Harris never manages to quite get past the screenplay’s stumbles, no matter how many great songs – Beetlebum, Six Underground, Smack My B**ch Up – he manages to squeeze into the film. Add to this an entertaining character who seems to learn nothing through the film, other than new and inventive ways to get rid of the competition, and it seems that this film is trying just a little too hard to be Brett Easton Ellis.
In all, ‘Kill Your Friends’ is a highly entertaining film with many problems. Hoult is fantastic, but the deeper parts of the plot are not developed properly and although the audience may well find themselves rooting for this unscrupulous leading character, we are not always sure why. Still, the nostalgia created by the 90s soundtrack is definitely part of the gory, violent and amoral fun.
RATING: 3/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

Kill Your Friends
Review by Brogen Hayes
3.0Violent & amoral fun
  • filmbuff2011

    Adapted by John Niven from his novel, Kill Your Friends draws on Niven’s own, possibly very warped, experiences in the cut-throat world of the London music scene. It’s set in 1997, when the Spice Girls have gone big and are about to star in their own film. Artiste and Repertoire, or more commonly known as A&R, is what Stelfox (Nicholas Hoult) is all about. He sifts through all the acts out there, discarding most of their apparently useless music and instead concentrates on the small percentage that’s actually good. His nearest rival is his friend and fellow A&R man Waters (James Corden), who he kills in a drink-and-drug-fuelled rage. Copper DC Woodham (Edward Hogg) comes calling, but Stelfox is a stealthy fox and puts him off the trail – for a while anyway, by distracting him with offers of taking his attempts at singing on for a possible release. Meanwhile, his main rival in the A&R business Parker-Hall (Tom Riley) moves into the company and is now Stelfox’s boss – something that Stelfox clearly isn’t happy about. Just when Stelfox thinks that he might finally be on to that one genuine hit band, he’s subjected to blackmail, suspicion and more bloody murder… Kill Your Friends is a pitch black comedy for those who like their heroes, or rather anti-heroes, to be as nasty and as ruthless as possible, ready to stab anyone who gets in their way in the back. Preferably while they’re asleep. Modelled by Niven on the late, drug-addled movie producer Don Simpson, Stelfox is certainly a piece of work. He’s a product of his environment, where if you’re not at the top then you’re at the bottom scrounging around for whatever scraps are left over by your rivals. He’s a black-hearted, amoral character that you love to hate. He rates women, whether work colleagues or performers that he’s pursuing, on how ‘doable’ they are. Hoult does something quite extraordinary here. Perhaps channelling some of his character Nux from Mad Mad: Fury Road, he gives a highly energetic, kinetic and credible performance, with some stellar voiceover work as well. It’s hard not to be swept along by Stelfox, as he gives Frank Underwood-style snide remarks about other characters. Director Owen Harris surrounds him with a good supporting cast that also includes Joseph Mawle (soon to be seen in The Hallow), Ed Skrein, Craig Roberts and Rosanna Arquette, in a brief but amusing performance. It doesn’t always work though – the unlikely behaviour of DC Woodham comes across as like something out of Scarface, an entirely different film. The outrageous behaviour of Stelfox and his peers also seems to be turned up to 11. Yes, the music industry is every bit as cut-throat as we can imagine – but not literally. Kill Your Friends won’t be to everyone’s taste, but for more adventurous audiences it’s brutally funny entertainment with a real sting in its tail. ***