The opening titles haven’t even appeared yet, and already we see Nicholas Hoult’s Stelfox, standing over the forlorn, pitiful, half naked body of James Corden’s Waters – and he’s pissing on him. Sipping his beer at the same time, with a wry, sinister smile smacked across his face – it becomes patently obvious, pretty early on, that this is not a man we’re going to like very much. And the further on this endeavour progresses, our initial apprehensions towards him are proven to be emphatically correct.
Set amidst the Britpop scene of the 1990s, our tale takes place in a record company, where Stelfox works in A&R – desperate for a promotion, coming up against Waters for the enticing new job. For Stelfox has one aim in life: to make as much money as he possibly can, and unlike his loyal assistant Darren (Craig Roberts), he doesn’t really like, nor even understand, contemporary music. And yet he jets off around the world, with the aim of returning home with the next big hit, to earn that promotion – and he, quite literally, doesn’t care about who he steps on along the way.
Based on the popular John Niven novel of the same name, Owen Harris is the man tasked with bringing this tale to life on the big screen, and the director has opted for a stylistic approach, yet one that simply hasn’t been pulled off. Vying to be like Filth, or Trainspotting in that regard, it’s simply not accomplished enough and the style actually gets in the way of the savage nature of this narrative. Though already rather dark to say the least, this title could be even bleaker, and can be accused of being too comedic and playful in parts; whereas ramping up the more nefarious, sinister elements would be beneficial. Perhaps it would be helped had the role of Stelfox been left in the hands of somebody older. Though remaining faithful to the original prose – and you can understand why having somebody so cocky, ambitious and idealistic is important, in a Patrick Bateman kind of way – the older the character is, the more desperate they become, and it’s that latter notion which is missing from this production.
Needless to say, Hoult turns in a more than commendable performance, in a film that works as something of a vehicle for him to show off his acting ability. Though when confident and cocky he doesn’t quite pull it off in the same way he manages when Stelfox shows off a more pathetic side to his demeanour, which is where Hoult comes into his element. Either way, long are the days this talented actor is referred to as, ‘that kid from About a Boy‘, which feels like a lifetime ago now.