TIFF Review: Nicholas Hoult induces nervous laughter in dark comedy “Kill Your Friends”

If you made a movie with the violence from American Psycho and the drug-induced orgies of Wolf of Wall Street, the result would be Kill Your Friends.

Based on the novel by John Niven, Kill Your Friends is a black comedy about the music industry in the late 1990s. Nicholas Hoult stars as Steven Stelfox, a talent scout working for a record company who will do anything, including murder, to become the head of his department. Hoult leads the film with a brash tongue and cynicism. However, it’s his facial expressions that make his performance. The subtle nuances of his expressions like the clench of his jaw to control his anger or slight widening of his eyes in shock add comedy to his performance.

Hoult narrates the film, which works to contrast the thoughts inside Stelfox’s head and his actions on screen. There is more humour in seeing Stelfox smile and act diplomatically with his co-workers when the audience knows how angry he is internally.

Occasionally, he breaks the fourth wall, which makes the story more engaging.

As a character, Stelfox is unlikeable. He’s manipulative, misogynistic, and has psychopathic tendencies. Instead of dealing with his problems, he lies or cheats to get rid of them. Because of this, you can’t help but wonder what he will do next.

Music plays a big role in the film. Though the two primary bands in the movie are fictional, there are many references to real bands such as the Spice Girls, the Jam, and Oasis.  

Besides setting the period of the movie, the music also helps set the mood throughout the film. When Stelfox begins to feel like he’s in over his head with all the crimes he has committed, the song Karma Police by Radiohead is used to reflect his internal struggle. There’s a ridiculous moment where Stelfox stares at Thom Yorke through his television screen as he sings to him, “This is what you get.”

While the movie is entertaining overall, it bares a lot of similarity to American Psycho. Both films have narcissistic protagonists in high-power jobs who go on a murder spree. If you’re looking for something new, Kill Your Friends is not it.

Featured image from YouTube