Kill Your Friends: The BRWC Review

film reviews | movies | features | BRWC Kill Your Friends: The BRWC Review

By Robert Andrews.

Providing audiences with 103 minutes that oozes with cynicism, violence and drug-fuelled schemes, Kill Your Friends certainly had the potential to establish itself as this British generation’s equivalent of American Pyscho. Whilst the stylistic components and tone of Kill Your Friends prove reminiscent of other products of the black comedy genre, the film very much felt like a fresh product, a product which displayed to a large degree an exciting sense of sinister potential, offering audiences the rare opportunity to invest in the journey of a protagonist who we would usually be prompted to despise and disregard as pure evil. Unfortunately most of this potential is left unfulfilled, not necessarily due to the film’s content, but rather the manner in which it is executed. Never the less Kill Your Friends certainly provides audiences with a not so uninteresting story line, a somewhat interesting lead performance from Nicholas Hoult, and enough controversy for those audience members fed up of looking on the bright side of life.

Nothing quite establishes the film’s sinister and psychopathic tone quite like the opening image of Hoult’s character Stelfox urinating on a drugged up James Corden, all in the name of jealousy and discontent. As Stelfox takes the fourth wall breaking from American Psycho to a whole new level, more on levels with Belfort’s narration in The Wolf of Wall Street, we are very much happy to go along with Stelfox on his sinister journey, as he betrays all who stand in his way of finding his next big music hit. As Stelfox goes from pillar to post in order to do so, the barometers of the British music industry and its workings become comprehendible on a simplistic level, whereby we never lose ourselves in the narrative or question where Stelfox takes us, even if these places fail to provide any conflict varying from previous encounters.

The narrative in itself is not entirely immersive in the sense that it is Stelfox’s controversial and evil mindset that acts as the binding mechanism which holds the narrative in place. Whilst Hoult’s performance prevents audiences from nodding off, those vital moments of twists and turns in the narrative rarely provide the desired effect. If the title of the film had any bearing on the decision made by certain viewers to watch Kill Your Friends, then the prospect of disappointment may creep into the mindset of those very same viewers due to the literal lack of the killing of Stelfox’s friends. Around three quarters of the way through the film, this point dawned on me and very much coincided with a deterioration of interest in Stelfox’s mounting problems. Whereby the metaphorical killing of Stelfox’s friends forms the real basis of the story, which certainly aired a sense of intelligence in relation to the film’s title, a little more bloodshed wouldn’t have gone amiss, which in relation to Stelfox’s problems in the narrative would have made a substantial amount of sense.

That connection which Stelfox establishes with the audience from the film’s opening, talking directly to us, informing us of every personal thought no matter how sinister, is very much what binds all the narrative components together in relation to audience interest. Hoult’s performance is certainly indicative of a role not usually associated with Hoult’s typical acting choices, and it certainly did his acting portfolio no harm at all. Hoult is one of those extremely likable actors whereby even in a morally challenging role such as this, we are happy enough to go along the journey with him.

Much like many of the film’s set pieces, a lot of Hoult’s dialogue didn’t appear to be executed with the desired effect. As Hoult’s disturbing analogies and monologues reached my ears, I felt I should be laughing, but found myself rarely doing so. As the narrative went on and his cynicism continued, it became very apparent that Stelfox’s character was never going to be presented with an opportunity to change. That is not to say I wanted Stelfox to transform into a law abiding A&R man with a good set of morals. Rather, the opportunity for Stelfox to change was certainly something that could have improved the perception of the character, as after a while his cynicism fails to alter our perception of the character. As a result Stelfox appears more and more one dimensional as the story continues towards a mostly underwhelming resolution and rushed ending.

Having not read the novel of the same name, I can make no attempt to determine whether the adaptation lived up to the quality of the original novel, but in the modern age of adaptation this argument has proven to be not worth the time or effort. Whilst Kill Your Friends may not have lived up to the potential it presented in its theatrical trailers, it certainly isn’t a film that will force you question what possessed you to watch it in the first place. Hoult’s performance will uphold audience engagement for a good while, and his schemes in the narrative do certainly prompt a similar level of engagement from audience members. Essentially execution proves to be the killing blow in terms of this film’s critical success, whereby a lot of the film’s early potential becomes lost in the film’s lack of multidimensional character development.

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