“To drive your enemies before you, and here the lamentations of their women”. Wait, isn’t that one of the dumb credos of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Conan the Barbarian? Yes it is, but what the heck is it doing as the driving theme of Owen Harris’ wannabe “American Psycho” flick, “Kill Your Friends”? Your guess is as good as mine, but it may have something to do with not really having anything new to say about the music industry in which it’s set. Did you know that most record execs only care about making money, not making great music? Mind totally blown, right?
Set during the height of the ’90s Britpop wave, the film stars Hoult as ambitious and unethical A&R man Steven Stelfox, whose only goal is to make it to the top by any means necessary. The music biz can be murder and Steven takes that literally, even if it means killing one of his buddies to earn a promotion. There isn’t much of a plot to speak of, really, as Steven travels to music festivals and concerts, snorts coke like a demon, and murders anybody who dares get in his way. Meanwhile, Steven has his eyes open for the “next big thing” that can sell a shitload of units, whether the band is actually good or not.
Hoult is an endlessly charming actor and that works in his favor always, but especially when he’s playing the villain. However his frequent fourth wall-breaking monologues (think “Deadpool” only less funny or meaningful) are dull and accomplish nothing but to repeat the film’s cynical message. We’re expected to see him as the rock music version of Christian Bale’s Patrick Bateman but there’s nothing about Steven that is remotely interesting, and little revealed about him that is enlightening. The music industry is cutthroat? Got it. Being mean and nasty is all the film has going for it, and “Kill Your Friends” keeps skipping back to that like a warped LP.