Kill Your Friends

(2015) * 1/2 Unrated
103 min. Well Go USA Entertainment. Director: Owen Harris. Cast: Nicholas Hoult, Thomas Conroy, James Corden.

/content/films/4924/1.jpgNot since American Psycho have business practices been as literally "cutthroat" as they are in Kill Your Friends, a dark-comic thriller likewise adapted from a novel. As American Psycho sees out the last of its Broadway run in musical form, Kill Your Friends hits home video in the States, where it's unlikely to cause much of a stir. As adapted by screenwriter John Niven from his own novel, Kill Your Friends has a decidedly been-there, killed-that feel to it.

Director Owen Harris' best asset here isn't Niven's script, but young star Nicholas Hoult (Mad Max: Fury Road, X-Men: Apocalypse), who gives a hateful character a bit of sexy pull. Hoult plays 27-year-old Steven Stelfox, A&R man for Unigram Records in 1997 London, at the height of the Britpop boom. In runs of narration, Stelfox drily clues in the audience to his own nastiness and the cynicism of the music business, where the second word trumps the first. Describing himself as "Providing the soundtrack to your short life on this planet," Stelfox scoffs at notions of art for art's sake."We have an obligation to make money," he says, plainly. It's a royal "we," for Stelfox is just as plainly only out for number one. He takes pride in his expensive clothes and expense account and power, but it's not enough. He won't be satsified until he's in the head office, and perhaps not even then.

And so, while superficially playing the game, Stelfox sneers behind the backs of all his colleagues and superiors. These include his loyal scout Darren (Craig Roberts), executive assistant Rebecca (Georgia King), and slovenly exec Roger Waters (James Corden), who's next in line for the promotion Steven seeks: head of A&R. As per the title, Stelfox will eliminate some of these "friends" before the picture's through, prompting a murder investigation by corruptible DC Woodham (Edward Hogg), who—wouldn't you know it?—has music-career aspirations of his own. Only Darren sems to be in it for the love of music, but the longer he spends around the trappings of the industry—free-flowing money, women, liquor, and cocaine—he seems to be coming around to Steven's way of thinking.

Kill Your Friends is nasty without ever being funny (the closest it comes is a plot point revolving around a lewd German dance track), which might still have worked if the satire had anything fresh to say, or even a new angle on the old chestnuts about ambition, greed, and the lengths to which one will go chasing the seductive dream of succes. But instead, Niven and Harris seem content to see the material turned into half-baked rehashes of Danny Boyle, David Fincher, and, yes, unavoidably, Mary Harron, whose American Psycho took nearly identical material—just placed in the nearby, more resonant milieu of Wall Street—and made it sing as a stylish satiric tour de force about a nation in the thrall of money at the expense of human lives.

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Aspect ratios: 2.39:1

Number of discs: 1

Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Street date: 6/7/2016

Distributor: Well Go USA Entertainment

Well Go USA sends home Kill Your Friends on Blu-ray in a humble but satisfying hi-def special edition. A/V specs are outstanding. Picture quality excels with sleek, sharp visuals, rich in color and texture, and detail. Black level is rock-solid and contrast well-calibrated, helping the picture to achieve depth to go with its film-like look. The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix handily delivers dialogue, revving up for the nightmarish moments and giving full body to the score and many tunes.

In bonus features, you'll find only a suite of five EPK Interviews: "Nicholas Hoult, Steven" (5:12, HD), "James Corden, Roger" (2:30, HD), "Craig Roberts, Darren" (2:06, HD), "Owen Harris, Director" (7:20, HD), and "John Niven, Writer" (8:52, HD). The talent discusses the source material, the script, what drew them to the film, why audiences should see it, anecdotes from the set, and working with each other.


Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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