Is cynicism a sub-genre yet? Because it kind of should be. American Psycho. The Wolf of Wall Street. Network. Fight Club. I assume that Kill Your Friends was hoping to rub shoulders with these Kinds of Nihilism, except it isn’t quite clever enough to be admitted to the club.
It’s about the music business in London, circa 1997. Certainly a heady time to be an A&R man, which is exactly what Steven Stelfox (Nicholas Hoult) is. It’s the height of Britpop, and business is booming. If you find the next Oasis, or hell, the next Spice Girls, you’re made. But one misstep can also mean career suicide. It’s a super competitive industry, and both the screenwriter (John Niven) and the director (Owen Harris) have decided to bonk you over the head with this fact. And when, after the first 10 minutes or so, you’ve been completely bludgeoned with this theme, they yank open your jaw and force-feed it to you for 90 minutes more until you’re veritably choking on it.
Hoult is fun to watch. He’s doing the heavy lifting in this movie, out-acting the material he’s given. But his character is one-note, and it’s the exact same note as the movie in its entirety, so nothing sticks out. The bitterness is unending. Kill Your Friends aims to be the blackest of comedies, but when everyone is horrible all the time it really dulls your senses. It’s a grueling film to slog through without a single redeeming character so you can’t emotionally invest. Stelfox is pushed to further and further extremes but you won’t care an iota because nobody deserves to get out of this with their dignity intact.
To their credit, they spared zero expense on the soundtrack: Blur, Prodigy, Radiohead, The Chemical Brothers, Oasis. It reminds you what a good time it was to be alive in the late 90s. It also makes you angry that they’ve failed to live up to these bands. Almost certainly there’s an interesting tale here to tell. Kill Your Friends has no idea what it is though, and hopes you’ll be impressed with blood and cursing instead, which is almost the same as story, right?