Kill Your Friends
dir Owen Harris
scr John Niven
prd Gregor Cameron, Will Clarke
with Nicholas Hoult, Georgia King, Craig Roberts, Tom Riley, Edward Hogg, James Corden, Joseph Mawle, Ed Skrein, Moritz Bleibtreu, Rosanna Arquette, Jim Piddock, Osy Ikhile
release UK 6.Nov.15
15/UK 1h43
Kill Your Friends
British psycho: Hoult

roberts riley hogg
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Kill Your Friends There are echoes of American Psycho and Filth in this brutally black comedy, which Niven has adapted his satirical novel, but director Harris never quite nails the tone. Without a single sympathetic character, and a protagonist who's merely nasty, the movie feels mean rather than witty or insightful.

At the peak of Britpop in 1997, record companies desperate to maintain their winning streaks. At Unigram Records, Steven (Hoult) seeks new artists and develops their repertoires. Hugely ambitious, Steven doesn't let the fact that he hates music, and pretty much everything else, slow him down, belittling his savvy assistant Rebecca (King), his loyal scout Darren (Roberts) and his best-pal colleague Roger (Corden). After going to extremes to get a promotion, he's horrified when his rival Antony (Riley) gets the job. Hopefully another hit will be right around the corner, even if it's awful.

Through all of this, a cop (Hogg) is nosing around for clues to a murder while trying to launch his own musical career. This subplot adds a hint of balance, but director Harris' sleek approach makes everything startlingly nihilistic. The movie feels like a blatant attack on a British society where self-absorbed people run corporations because they're ambitious, not talented. This may not be far from the truth, but the film shouts where it should crack a snide joke.

Hoult's storming performance never hedges its bets, portraying Steven as a sociopathic thug who uses his charm to get away with murder. But since he reveals his true colours in to-camera rants, he's simply reprehensible: a loser who neither values nor deserves anything he has. By the end, there isn't a single thing about Steven that we can even remotely tolerate. So our sympathies shift to marginally more complex characters played by King, Roberts, Riley and Hogg.

The problem is that without a wink at the audience, this never seems like a parody, so watching Steven's increasingly appalling rampage leaves us feeling complicit and grubby. What the film has to say about the music industry is important, especially the way it chews up and spits out genuine talent while boosting the careers of talentless hacks like the hilariously inept wannabe girl group Songbirds here. Yes, this industry (and most others for that matter) is about making money, not art. But a movie needs to connect with its audience it if hopes to get its message across.

cert 18 themes, language, violence, sexuality, drugs 25.Aug.15

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