Actors: Nicholas Hoult, James Corden, Ed Skrein
Director: Owen Harris
Format: Dolby, NTSC, THX, Widescreen
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Well Go USA
Release Date: June 7, 2016
Run Time: 103 minutes
Kill Your Friends is not outrageous enough in its violence or dark enough in its tone to give the satire of the novel it is based on enough edge, despite the screenplay being written by author John Niven. Worse yet, comparisons are bound to be made with American Psycho, which still feels more groundbreaking despite being made 16 years earlier than this film. Had director Owen Harris taken this narrative in another direction, it may have avoided the comparisons that the material obviously had no chance to live up to, but instead much of the violence ends up feeling more perfunctory than shocking. There is potential amongst the differences for some uniquely scathing commentary, but Kill Your Friends instead unwisely focuses on the most derivative elements of the narrative.
Set against the backdrop of
Britpop music scene in the 1990s, Nicholas Hoult (“Skins,” Mad Max: London Fury Road) heads up
the cast as narrator and scumbag A&R man, Steven Stelfox. Steven is working
at a struggling record label and advances his career by sabotaging his
coworkers by any means necessary, until he carelessly resorts to murder. The
logic of this criminal endeavor is as thoughtless as much of the screenplay,
especially when effort is made to show his intelligence in scenes prior.
After this first murder occurs, the film slows down as Steven’s behavior becomes abhorrent for the hateful things he says rather than anything he does. Despite showing no remorse for his actions, Steven begins to sabotage himself with a senseless stream of misogynistic and homophobic comments amidst chronic drug abuse. This behavior is enough to cost him the opportunity to land an important client, simultaneously losing him a highly coveted job promotion. While the commentary on the music industry in the 1990s has potential, Niven’s screenplay is far more content to focus on Steven’s spiral into desperation. Neither the characters nor the acting are strong enough to support the shortcomings of the story.
Hoult built his acting career on the random success of child acting when he played the title child of the Nick Hornby adaptation, About a Boy. Since then he has coasted on looks and this mild celebrity, though never with the ability to convince me he was doing anything but acting. While his performance here is far less forced than other roles he has received as an adult, it is still too uneven to carry a character piece. Not all can be blamed on the young actor, however, as the biggest issue remains the inconsistency of the written character and Harris’s lack of strength as a director. The entire endeavor feels directionless and random, peppered with subplots that seem constructed to fill the run time rather than add any depth or nuance to the narrative. Despite Niven’s real-world experience with the music industry, he doesn’t have much to say about it within the satirical elements of the film, nor does his screenplay capture any humor in the dark comedy. This merely leaves audiences with the repugnance of a despicable protagonist.
The Blu-ray release offers little in terms of visual enhancements from the high definition. Even with the glamour of the industry, the film ends up looking cheap and seedy, though the soundtrack makes use of the DTS-HD Master Audio. Often times the soundtrack of 90’s tunes is the only thing keeping this film afloat, leaving me more interested in the next song played than any resolution with the characters. Extras include interviews with Niven, Harris and key cast members.
Entertainment Value: 6/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 5.5/10
Historical Significance: 3/10
Special Features: 3/10