'Kill Your Friends'
Dark comedy is a difficult beast to tame. It’s a fine line between shock laughs and pandering tedium. It’s all too easy to numb your audience with outrageousness if you’re unable to top yourself or at least stumble onto something resembling a point. ‘Kill Your Friends’ is unfortunately an example of pushing a dark comedy a little too far and burning out a little too quickly as a result.
The movie has isolated scenes and sequences that are immensely watchable, just not enough for a feature length film.
Nicholas Hoult stars as a coked-out, entitled sociopath working in A&R in the British record industry of the 1990s. Through sarcastic voiceovers, he proves to be as despicable as you’d imagine those people being. He claims to hate bands and music, but knows how to manipulate an image into something that will sell. Of course, he doesn’t actually spend too much time doing that. He’s mostly out there filling himself with as many substances as possible, abusing as many women as possible, and eventually even enjoying a little murder to get ahead. But it’s a comedy! A sick one.
If that sounds like a remake of ‘American Psycho’ with a Britpop setting, that’s exactly what the movie is. Sure, novelist-turned-screenwriter John Niven has a way with a nasty barb and a searing line of commentary, but he’s not particularly gifted at plotting or characterization. Everyone on screen is fairly loathsome and not in a particularly amusing or endearing way. They’re just crappy people to be with and that makes the flick tough to sit through. It also doesn’t help much that the script blows most of its psychotic load early on, so there aren’t many places for the antihero to go. You’re mostly just stuck watching him make a lateral slide from one bad behavior to the next. At first it’s kind of funny, and then eventually it becomes a little too much.
Nicholas Hoult is unfortunately a little miscast in the role. He’s a strong actor, but not quite able to nail the wolf-in-snake’s-clothing here. Director Owen Harris has done some interesting work for the BBC like ‘Holy Flying Circus’ and an episode of ‘Black Mirror’, but seems a little lost trying to translate this book into a film, doubling down on camera pyrotechnics in a futile attempt to add some energy to the tedious treadmill of filth.
‘Kill Your Friends’ is hardly the worst movie ever made. It’s just rather frustrating to sit through given all the laughs that stick early on, the interesting world, and the predictably brilliant soundtrack of ’90s Britpop. There are moments when the movie feels like an unholy mixture of ‘American Psycho’ and ‘Trainspotting’, but far too many scenes feel like the work of people who have merely watched those movies a few too many times and don’t have much to add.