Kill Your Friends, film review: Nicholas Hoult stars in John Niven’s black comedy

(18) Owen Harris, 103 mins. Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Craig Roberts, James Corden

Geoffrey Macnab
Friday 06 November 2015 01:17
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Chip on his shoulder: Nicholas Hoult plays Steven Stelfox, an A&R man at London's Unigram Records
Chip on his shoulder: Nicholas Hoult plays Steven Stelfox, an A&R man at London's Unigram Records

In Adventures in the Screen Trade, his book about working in Hollywood, William Goldman famously wrote, "Nobody knows anything." In Kill Your Friends, a black comedy scripted by John Niven from his own novel, this has changed to, "None of us has a fucking clue." The film is set in the late 1990s, when there was still money swirling through the British music industry. Nicholas Hoult (the child actor from About a Boy) plays Steven Stelfox, an A&R man at London's Unigram Records. Like Dennis Price in Kind Hearts and Coronets, he has a chip on his shoulder and wants to get ahead. If that means murdering anyone who steps in his way, that won't put him off.

Kill Your Friends can't help but seem dated. There is a reliance on voice-over to remind us that, yes, 20 years ago in the pre-digital era, record company bosses really were as powerful, greedy and as self-indulgent as they are shown to be here. The scenes set at a Cannes trade convention are on the feeble side. (The fact that execs used to drink too much and take too many drugs at industry events is hardly the stuff of compelling drama.)

The in-jokes about the Spice Girls, Oasis and their imitators risk becoming wearisome and there are just a few too many scenes of Stelfox throwing demos in the bin or breaking CDs in half. When he embarks on a misogynistic rant, he is not witty enough to seem anything other than a boorish oaf. The film's redeeming factor is its giddy sense of excess. Like the protagonist of The Wolf of Wall Street, Stelfox pushes everything to absolute extremes.

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