Judging by his latest film, Nicholas Hoult isn’t the kind of the guy you would invite to the office Christmas do. In Kill Your Friends he plays Steven Stelfox, a Machiavellian A&R man who stops at nothing to advance his career in the 1997 British music industry. Unfortunately this American Psycho crossed with Oasis flick doesn’t quite hit the mark.
Stelfox works for Unigram, a fictional record label, during the time of the Britpop explosion. He’s responsible for finding new artists, signing them to the label and praying that they make money. However, as explained hilariously during the opening title sequence, Stelfox has no interest in the bands or their music. All he cares about is his career; specifically becoming the head of A&R at Unigram. He’s fuelled by booze, drugs and Sun Tzu-esque philosophy. Over the course of the film we see him blackmail, assault, murder and even urinate on James Corden.
The problem with this film is that it’s like the copious amounts of drugs that Stelfox ingests. It gives off a momentary buzz, particularly during the beginning, but ultimately it leaves you feeling empty and wanting something a bit more substantial. We get so used to seeing these characters engage in shocking and disturbing behaviours that over the course of two hours we become desensitised to it. As Stelfox engages in yet another drugs binge or conniving plan, it starts to get a little bit tedious.
“Kill Your Friends aims to be like Trainspotting, another Britpop-inspired flick”
Nicholas Hoult’s sneering, detached performance works well in this film. It’s hard to imagine that this is the same actor that played Marcus in About A Boy! However you can’t help but feel that compared to similar performances he doesn’t quite match up. He seems to lack the charm of Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street or the sheer unhinged madness of Christian Bale in American Psycho. In regards to the rest of the cast, the most interesting other character is Game Of Thrones’ Joseph Mawle who acts as a spectral mentor to Stelfox in his quest for power. It’s a missed opportunity that these two characters don’t have more screen time together.
Kill Your Friends aims to be like Trainspotting, another Britpop-inspired flick. However, unlike the Danny Boyle directed classic, it fails to capture the energy and the verve of the era. Owen Harris is the director and despite using an impressive 90s soundtrack (the song ‘Remember Me’ works particularly well), his direction is steady if unspectacular.
If anything Kill Your Friends is reminiscent of Filth, an equally gritty film that has James McAvoy in the lead role. Ultimately both films have the same central flaw. They’re so grim and bleak that the audience has a difficult time identifying and rooting for the protagonists. Maybe instead of watching sociopathic music execs, all we really want to see is common people and whatever common people do.
More like this: Filth (2013)