10 March 2018 | Oli_palmer23
"The issues for KILL YOUR FRIENDS stem from a very unfocused script that never seems to have a chief goal to aim for"
"Get fucked, you wouldn't last 10 minutes" quips Steven Stelfox (Hoult) right into the camera early on in KILL YOUR FRIENDS, the adaptation of John Niven's 2008 novel. He's aiming this put-down at the viewer as an exclamation of his superiority over us. He wants us to be envious, jealous, maybe even hate him. He's an A&R man in the music business, and he wants us to know that his life is awesome, and ours is not when compared to his. This set-up is then followed by roughly 90 minutes of the sort of drug-taking, jet-flying and partying exploits that could be expected, with the odd merciless killing thrown in for good measure. By the end though, it's difficult to feel envious of him, because when it comes down to it, his life (and by implication; this film) is really not that great.
Set in the year 1997, Stelfox is consistently hunting for the next big thing in music. In doing so, his excessive lifestyle can be permitted to continue. He will stop at nothing to be successful in this business and he's not afraid to step on toes to get there. When even that won't work, there are always... other options.
Nicholas Hoult, at first glance appears too young to play this role. The baby-faced actor is a little difficult to take seriously as a top A&R man when the majority of his colleagues appear at least 10 or 15 years older than him. Hoult however, carries himself nicely in the lead role, doing all that can be reasonably required of him. Unfortunately the issues for KILL YOUR FRIENDS stem from a very unfocused script that never seems to have a chief goal to aim for. The story attempts to make up for this by throwing in some genuinely shocking scenes of violence that will long be the images engrained in people's mind when they think back to this film.
The consistent fourth-wall breaking nature of Stelfox's character, coupled with the ever-present voiceover means we always know exactly what's going on in Stelfox's head. But this doesn't necessarily ensure we always know why he's doing the things he's doing. His eventual foray into murderous tendencies is not handled with any clear focus and subsequently just feels out of character, even for someone with his levels of excess.
John Niven's adapted screenplay is keen to hammer in the point that the music business is full of people, tasked with pulling the strings of artists who all have egos that outweigh their talent by a considerable margin. Niven himself worked in the music business for ten years, so its more than likely his characters are loosely based on real people that he has came across during this time. This adds a certain authenticity to the proceedings here, and it's not exactly too difficult to imagine some of the people were genuinely like this, especially in the 'experimental' 90's music era.
For all the good intentions involved here, KILL YOUR FRIENDS comes across as a distant British second cousin to both THE WOLF OF WALL STREET and AMERICAN PSYCHO, paying homage to both but never really finding its own identity.