Combustible Celluloid
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With: Nicholas Hoult, James Corden, Tom Riley, Georgia King, Edward Hogg, Rosanna Arquette, Craig Roberts, Jim Piddock, Joseph Mawle, Osy Ikhile, Ella Smith, Moritz Bleibtreu
Written by: John Niven, based on his novel
Directed by: Owen Harris
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 103
Date: 04/01/2016

Kill Your Friends (2016)

1 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Swan Songs

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Sometimes bad behavior can be entertaining, but in this cynical story of the music industry, it's simply depressing. There's no vicarious thrill, no exhilaration, only uninspired, unpunished meanness. It calls to mind The Wolf of Wall Street, which cooked up a frenetic, intoxicating pace, and also American Psycho, which was genuinely alluring and shocking at the same time. But Kill Your Friends is none of these things. It goes too far into cynicism, but not far enough into titillation. It doesn't even feel like satire.

In 1997, cynical A&R man Steven Stelfox (Nicholas Hoult) is in the midst of a boom time for English pop music, but stresses over what to do next. To sign a band might cost him his job, but to miss the chance of signing the right band could also cost him his job. He tries to sign the beloved indie band The Lazies, but is also faced with the prospect of signing a Spice Girls-like act. At the same time, he wants a promotion at work, but fears that his cocaine-addicted co-worker will get it. So Steven murders him. This brings about blackmail by a cop and a secretary, and further changes at the office require Steven to commit more crimes. Will Steven find his perfect hit?

Hoult is a fine actor, and he does what he can here, but his character is just reprehensible enough to push viewers away. He's not funny, his crimes have no setup and no payoff, and his activities in the music business mean nothing; he's not particularly excited or repelled by any kind of music, and not even the soundtrack with hits of the day (Blur, The Prodigy, Oasis, Radiohead, etc.) can help; it almost makes you want to never listen to music again.

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