Nicholas Hoult shines as a criminally heartless and shamelessly sexist music-industry pro in Kill Your Friends, an often darkly comic and violent riff on making it in entertainment that doesn’t have anything new to say about the collision of avarice and ambition.
But as a showcase for Hoult, whose character is as slick as an ice rink and twice as cold, Kill Your Friends has its pleasures.
It’s 1997 and Hoult is the studiously well-dressed Stelfox, a man who works in A&R (the department that signs acts) at struggling Unigram Records.
The trouble is that Stelfox doesn’t really like music but just the drugs, sex and adulation that go along with it.
He wants to make it to the top but there are others in his way, including Parker-Hall (Tom Riley) his successful counterpart at another label who is hired to bring his magic to Unigram. But that’s not Stelfox’s only problem: He has murdered one of his fellow A&R guys and the local detective may be on to him — though the cop dreams of being songwriter and wants a publishing deal.
Based on the novel by John Niven, Kill Your Friends is American Psycho meets HBO’s Vinyl, with fewer redeeming characters than either.
Some might find that off-putting as they may find the references to ’90s Britpop mystifying. Casual American viewers won’t recognize the jokey references to such U.K. bands as Menswear and Supergrass.
The bigger problem is that Kill Your Friends shifts tone abruptly and works better as the send-up that it starts out to be rather than the blood-soaked quasi-drama it becomes.
But it does capture the era right before the Internet wreaked havoc on the music industry. From winging off to South by Southwest to see the next hot Swedish indie band to an impressive soundtrack — featuring Radiohead and the Prodigy — that is a time capsule of the English sound at the time, Kill Your Friends does possess enough kernels of authenticity to be a must-see for anyone who still misses MTV’s 120 Minutes.
Exclusive: AMC Grapevine Mills
Kill Your Friends
Director: Owen Harris
Cast: Nicholas Hoult, Ed Skrein, James Corden, Rosanna Arquette
Rated: Unrated (sex, nudity, bloody violence, strong language, drug use throughout)
Running time: 103 min.