Based on the novel of the same name, Kill Your Friends is an interesting peek into the music industry and the representatives who are trusted to find the latest hit. What you find is a mix of alcohol, drugs, debauchery, murder, blackmail and somewhere in between someone makes a song. If it sounds shocking, that’s because it’s meant to be, but the film never gives you room to breathe; it’s just a continuous stream of horror, so you never get the full impact of any individual joke or murder.
The film stars Nicholas Hoult as Steven Stelfox, a barkingly mad A&R man whose ambition to succeed is matched only by his ruthlessness. The first we hear of him is an opening monologue in which he explains the importance of the music industry, complaining morons like his co-worker Waters (James Corden) came to be in charge of deciding the music of a generation. It’s an interesting speech, but it also introduces one of the film’s recurring issues: a bad sound mix, leaving Hoult difficult to hear over the din of the soundtrack.
Stelfox’s goal is to find the next big hit, but after pumping a lot of money into an act which isn’t paying off, he becomes desperate to find a new artist and the recognition he craves. Early on we find him concocting a cocktail of various drugs to poison his co-worker, but he doesn’t stop there.
He murders, schemes and manipulates everyone at the record label in a game he hopes will put him at the top and everyone else at the bottom (or buried). There’s an obvious stylistic similarity to American Psycho, but it falls down when it comes to the execution.
Set in 1990s, Kill Your Friends presents some great observations about Britpop, girl power and the rise of indie bands, and these form some of the film’s best jokes. The other source of humour is Stelfox judging everyone he meets, which offers some brilliantly funny moments, but the constant barrage of insults eventually gets a little wearisome.
Issues with balance run throughout the film, from its over-the-top gore to its plotline bloat, with multiple early strands that don’t look like they’ll lead anywhere until you make it into the second act. This is where the film picks up some steam and settles into a comfortable pace, offering natural satire and comical observations, before losing itself as it heads into the final act.
Gore enthusiasts may enjoy the effort put into the murder scenes, but sometimes things are best left to the imagination. The strong middle portion of the film is let down by the bloated beginning and ending. The result is too often dull, which is especially sad considering how much Kill Your Friends wants to shock audiences.
Words by Sunny Ramgolam