Review: ‘Kill Your Friends’ a bloody music biz satire

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

An all-grown-up Nicholas Hoult delivers a killer performance in director Owen Harris’ sleek and stylish pitch black comedy “Kill Your Friends,” a wry look at the British music industry in the 1990s.

Hoult, who has grown up on screen from “About a Boy” to “Mad Max: Fury Road,” is Steven Stelfox, a cutthroat A&R rep at Unigram Records, a fictional major label looking to find the next big thing in a post-Britpop world. The joke is that no one in the music industry knows a single solitary thing about what they’re doing, it’s all guesswork frequently interrupted by copious drug binges. It’s a ’90s version of HBO’s “Vinyl.”

Playing a well-spoken white collar exec willing to kill to get ahead in his career, there’s more than a bit of “American Psycho” in Hoult’s performance, never moreso than when he bludgeons a co-worker to death while lecturing him on the artistic merits of Paul Weller. The plot becomes a bit too farcical when a policeman investigating the murder (Edward Hogg) turns out to be a sniveling fanboy who wants a publishing deal to become a songwriter, but the script (John Niven based it on his own 2008 novel) wraps things up with a tight — and quite bloody — finale.

Hoult is the engine who propels the film forward, and he is more darkly charismatic than he’s ever been before on film. His character is deeply unlikeable and without redemption, yet Hoult somehow makes it sing.

The film also gets a lot out of its soundtrack, which employs Blur, Oasis, the Prodigy, the Chemical Brothers and more to great effect. “Kill Your Friends” goes to some ugly places, but it keeps a sturdy sense of rhythm.

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‘Kill Your Friends’

GRADE: B-

Rated R for violence, drug use and nudity

Running time: 103 minutes