What You See Is What You Get With ‘Kill Your Friends’ | Film Review
Like its title, Kill Your Friends doesn’t leave much to the imagination. Although that feels like a harsh statement for a film that made me laugh out loud and provided genuine enjoyment, it’s actually fair and true. The opening scene introduces the film with the sound of deep nasal inhalation then the ‘I’ in ‘Friends’ disappears like a line of cocaine. Unsubtle is an understatement. Whether that was the effect director Owen Harris was going for I can’t be sure as there is a fine line between tongue-in-cheek and taking yourself too seriously, and this film occasionally fell into both categories.
Nicholas Hoult is Stephen Stelfox, a ruthless, vindictive A&R executive looking for the next number one in ‘90s Britain. He’s not actually interested in music, he’s not passionate about the singers, he hates bands, and he’s not that good at his job, but he’s successful because he will go to any lengths to become the next Head of A&R. Hoult is back in the anti-hero role he made his own in Skins, finally dominating a film and proving he is more than a supporting actor.
Meanwhile, the rest of the cast are brilliant (particularly an excellent performance from Edward Hogg as DC Woodham), although Georgia King and Craig Roberts (from Wild Child and Submarine respectively) are frustratingly side-lined, their comedic acting abilities unaddressed. Instead, the stage is left for Hoult to work Stelfox’s hideous, obnoxious magic, and he does it beautifully.
The plot is thoroughly engaging, as is Hoult (you want him to succeed for some strange reason) with fast-paced editing and slick camera-work: a perfect mirror of the lifestyle. Without any experience of the music industry I can’t be one to judge, but the film portrays it to be a stereotypical playground for sex, drugs, and not much rock ‘n’ roll, more like money, and lots of it. Occasionally, Harris goes slightly overboard with the need for pathetic fallacy and metaphor.
Instead of appearing ironic, the scenes of Stelfox reading a book about unleashing your inner monster appear heavy-handed. Additionally, if Stelfox’s narration was intended to be tongue-in-cheek, Bridget Jones-style, the amount of music industry jargon was too complicated and clashed with the action-packed visuals. However, there are wonderfully unexpected moments of comic gold, especially involving a revolving sofa and explicit song lyrics, proving Harris as a talented comedian.
What is good about the film is the frantic, constant energy, yet two-thirds through, Stelfox crashes and burns causing a slump in the narrative, coming across as long-winded and uncomfortably dull. If, instead, Stefox remained on that high (which would reflect the amount of cocaine he puts away) the adrenaline would power the audience through and we’d leave exhausted but elated. Additionally, there weren’t enough murders (I can’t believe I just wrote that).
To make this film an overstatement, a comic commentary, or satire, it needed to push further. The murders were depicted in their perfect, bloody glory, reminiscent of Tarantino and Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz); limbs being ripped off, dogs being squashed, but it didn’t happen enough to warrant the title, leaving our expectations undelivered.
All in all, it was fun watching Kill Your Friends; I enjoyed the experience and found myself disappointed it was over. Although Harris was heavy-handed with subtlety, the pace was an adrenaline rush. On a side note, I will add that one day I’d love to see a British comedy that doesn’t imply women are just stupid or sluts, their naked breasts being their main asset. The one woman who proves to have a back-bone ends up getting it broken. In the literal sense.