Kill Your Friends introduces its antihero, a cutthroat a&r bro (Nicholas Hoult) at an English label circa 1997, by having him deliver an opening salvo meant to set the record straight once and for all: The only thing he and his kind are obligated to make, he tells us, is money. Art, political statements, good music — all means to an end.
This isn’t exactly a trade secret, but Hoult owns his sardonic delivery well enough that you may be inclined to give Owen Harris’s film the benefit of the doubt — for a time. Kill Your Friends doesn’t share the contempt for its audience that Hoult’s Steve has, but neither does it do much to inspire goodwill. Its deathward-leaning plot — without giving too much away, let’s just say that the title is quite literal — tries to be to the Britpop era what American Psycho was to the Reagan Eighties. Steve’s voiceover monologues and dealings with a detective investigating a murder are straight out of the Patrick Bateman playbook, but turning the sociopathic cynicism up to eleven tends to be ineffective unless wit and insight are included in the mix.
Kill Your Friends doesn’t have enough of either to pull most of this off, let alone a hitting-rock-bottom montage set to “Karma Police” that’s inexplicably played straight. You don’t feel bad for Bateman as he jealously regards his enemies’ superior business cards, but you do feel something.
Kill Your Friends
Directed by Owen Harris
Well Go USA
Opens April 1, AMC Empire 25