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sexta-feira, 6 de novembro de 2015
Kill Your Friends review: ‘feeble teenage satire'
This black comedy about excess and murder in the Nineties' music industry lacks the authenticity of its Britpop soundtrack
Perhaps the single biggest reason Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street is so thrilling to watch is its moral brinksmanship. It constantly dares you not to be seduced by the hedonistic lifestyle led by its anti-hero, the corrupt stockbroker Jordan Belfort – and as the wealth, booze, drugs and naked bodies pile up in front of you, you become sickeningly aware that perhaps Belfort’s debased dreams aren’t so far removed from your own.
Kill Your Friends, a black comedy set during the mid-1990s heyday of the UK music industry, feels like it was made by people who saw Scorsese’s film and missed the point. The film is, I think, supposed to be a dark satire in which Steven Stelfox (Nicholas Hoult) – a psychopathic A&R man at a London-based record label called Unigram (ho ho) – cuts a venomous swathe through the Britpop era.
But what we actually see on screen would be indiscernible from a version of the same story that straightforwardly positioned Steven as a Top Banter Merchant and all-round Massive Lad.
The screenplay was adapted by John Niven from his own 2008 novel, and he makes the classic novelist’s mistake of assuming that the best way to preserve the voice of his original work is by transplanting as many words as possible from it into the script. As such, we see a lot of Steven prowling around puke-grey offices while ranting about cocaine, HIV, Naziism and “mongoloids” in voiceover. The film’s slightly feeble and teenage ideas about what counts as transgressive quickly drain these outpourings of their capacity to shock.
The one thing Kill Your Friends does seem down on – ish – is its hero’s murdering. As in Mary Harron’s American Psycho, the cut-throat nature of the business is made literal, and Steven stabs, frames and otherwise annihilates his co-workers in order to safeguard his increasingly precarious position at Unigram. (His own professional success, as evinced by his handling of a squabbling girl band, a sexually explicit European dance track and a Swedish indie princess played by the singer Frida Sundemo, is the result of dumb luck rather than musical acumen.)
Target number one is Waters, a fellow talent scout played by James Corden – who’s marked out as expendable for, among other reasons, owning a Menswear CD – though other colleagues, including his PA (Georgia King) and a talented rival (Tom Riley), also soon fall into his sights. A detective (Edward Hogg) arrives at the Unigram offices to investigate Waters’s death, but his own better judgement becomes compromised by his craving for a little of the industry’s glamour for himself.
Hogg does a lot with a little here: in fact almost the entire cast, from Hoult on down, have more to offer than the material demands. Hoult’s angular face takes on a jagged menace here that suits the role well, though the unexpected danger concealed in his boyish good looks was far more effectively and nightmarishly deployed in Mad Max: Fury Road.
Director Owen Harris is a veteran of TV, with an episode of Black Mirror (Be Right Back with Hayley Atwell and Domhnall Gleeson) and the superb Monty Python biopic Holy Flying Circus under his belt – both of which were executed with a youthful stylishness and consideration of tone that’s lacking here.
Despite a period soundtrack that takes in Blur, The Chemical Brothers and The Prodigy, and the two New Labour billboards that bookend the film, Kill Your Friends never feels authentically Britpop. This was, let’s not forget, the music industry’s last hurrah before the file-sharing revolution. But aside from a sharp gag that doomily predicts The X Factor, there’s no sense things are unfolding in a specific time and place.
A sequence in which Steven’s bad karma begins to trip him up him is soundtracked, with some thudding obviousness, by Radiohead’s Karma Police – and as Harris cuts to that song’s immortal video by Jonathan Glazer, his film’s shortcomings snap into focus.
Suddenly you glimpse the Nineties for real: all glaring headlights, worn velvet seats and indistinct threat, backed by Thom Yorke’s thin-smiling, passive-aggressive croon. Nothing that Kill Your Friends does will convince you it was actually there.