“To make money sometimes we have to make art,” muses Nicholas Hoult’s oily A&R man Steven Stelfox. There’s an irony to be found here, given that Kill Your Friends, which rides shamelessly on the coat-tails of The Wolf of Wall Street and American Psycho, appears to have been made by people who share that exact same philosophy.
It opens to Nicholas Hoult’s Stelfox snorting a big old line of cocaine, an action which is repeated so relentlessly over the forthcoming 100 minutes that it assumes the rhythm of a metronome, ticking off the seconds until you can stop watching Nicholas Hoult taking cocaine.
The plot is simple: Stelfox, a decidedly average A&R man who “f***ing hates bands” but enjoys the other perks of being a music executive, decides to improve his tenuous career prospects by murdering some of his equally odious colleagues.
It wants very desperately to be a British American Psycho, filled as it is with direct-to-camera monologues about how vacant and unfulfilling and drug-addled the music business is. And while it has a certain glib charm (see lines like: “Asking an A&R man what’s his favourite band is like saying to an FX trader ‘what’s your favourite currency.’”), it lacks the deftness of touch to make you question your reaction to the rampant hedonism.
The script calls for little emotional range from the relatively overpowered cast; Hoult is consistently watchable despite being about a decade too young for the role, while Ed Hogg brings a sinister edge to his star-struck copper. But director Owen Harris is largely happy to rely on a 90s soundtrack to do the emotional heavy-lifting, most strikingly when Radiohead’s Karma Police fades in just as Stelfox is monologuing sadly about… karma.
Kill Your Friends wears its influences on its sleeve and its greatest achievement is showing just how adept those influences are at creating a three dimensional antihero; this film pales in comparison.
First published in City A.M.