Nicholas Hoult is one of those actors who is neither mind-blowingly good nor particularly bad. This isn’t his fault, he just hasn’t been given a role in which he can showcase any major talent he may have. For the past 15 years, he’s appeared in a wide range of small roles from the young Marcus in About a Boy to the completely deranged Nux in Mad Max: Fury Road. But he’s never been given the opportunity to show us his acting chops, and he has never really been the primary pull factor to watch a film – unless you’re a big fan of his. But in Owen Harris’ Kill Your Friends, which is out now on DVD & Blu-ray, he’s finally been given the chance to shine in a leading role. But is it any good?
Based on the novel by John Niven (who also writes the screenplay here), Kill Your Friends is a very mixed bag. Hoult plays Steven Stelfox, an ambitious and greedy A&R man in the late 1990’s British music scene. Fuelled by drugs and desperate to discover the next big thing in music, Steven will go to darkly violent lengths to stay in the game – which involves murdering his competitors. And I’ve got to hand it to Hoult, this is a brave role to take. Stelfox is a horribly despicable character – misanthropic, misogynistic and downright unlikeable; you know, a real arsehole. Along with his work in Mad Max, Hoult has really grown up since his sweet young role in About a Boy 14 years ago. Yes, Hoult’s performance here is good – you will truly despise his character which I suppose is a testament to his acting, because I’m sure he’s not this much of a dickhead in real life. But, take away Hoult’s performance, and there is very little left to talk about.
Relying heavily on the ‘time and place’, the film is packed with references to 90s Britpop and so if you’re a fan of that genre, you’ll probably enjoy the film for that reason alone. And you’ll bloody love the soundtrack, which throws around Blur, Oasis and Radiohead throughout. Some people are claiming it’s the best British soundtrack since Trainspotting. And if you’re into this kind of music, maybe it is. But for those of us who aren’t interested in Britpop? Narratively, Kill Your Friends never really pulls you in. The film is trying to be like a British American Psycho, and has made no secret of that with the marketing which has even labelled it as such. American Psycho worked because the dark humour was funny and Christian Bale’s titular killer was almost likeable, while the plot itself was actually decent too. Here, the humour fails to land and Hoult’s Stelfox is just a f*cking prick. You don’t root for him, nor do you care if he gets what he wants. And the story around his goals is dull, which doesn’t really help.
Kill Your Friends is a depraved riot of debauchery and violence, which when handled badly is just shit and uncomfortable. Ben Wheatley’s incredible High-Rise handled it perfectly, and made an artistic, beautifully dark masterpiece. I loved every second of that. And look at A Clockwork Orange, considered one of the finest films of all time. But this…this is poor. Nicholas Hoult did a pretty good job with the horrendously awful character, but everything else was misjudged and terrible. The characters are all awful people and painful to watch, the low budget is evident throughout, the direction is amateurish…I could go on.
Nicholas Hoult arguably brings us his finest performance yet and definitely his bravest, but that isn’t enough to outweigh the overwhelming amount of negatives in Kill Your Friends. 1/5.
Kill Your Friends at CeX
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