Review by Jack Foley
DICK Clement and Ian La Frenais have been responsible for some great rock n roll movies, such as The Commitments and Still Crazy. Unfortunately, they have struck out with Killing Bono.
Loosely based on Neil McCormick’s memoir of the same name, the film takes a potentially interesting scenario that’s born from fact and turns it into a fictional mess.
And it’s hindered considerably by a central character who is beyond sympathetic.
The film follows the fortunes of brothers Neil and Ivan McCormick (played by Ben Barnes and Robert Sheehan) whose lives become inextricably linked to the fortunes of U2, whose lead singer they went to the same school with.
For when Ivan is asked to try out for U2 in their formative years, Neil prevents Bono from signing him so that he can use his brother’s guitar prowess to find his own fame and fortune.
It’s this secret that informs the rest of the film as Neil seeks to form his own successful band all the while aware of Bono’s burgeoning global success.
But thanks to his ability to consistently sabotage himself, Neil’s ambitions lie always just out of reach.
Nick Hamm’s comedy isn’t without its funny moments and at least feels fresh in terms of concept but is let down by the liberties it takes with the fictional elements of the tale.
And as good as Barnes is in the central role ( and he really does convince as a world class schmuck and loser), his Neil is never as sympathetic as the film would like him to be. Rather, he is consistently annoying, self-centred and downright idiotic, placing a severe strain on the movie’s own ability to remain endearing.
Sheehan, too, suffers from the film’s contrived attempts to keep the brothers together no matter how insufferable Neil’s decisions become.
While the inclusion of a token gangster figure to spice things up and add some danger as well as sit-com style comedy involving several peripheral characters (Peter Serafinowicz’s absurd promoter and his randy wife) also hit the wrong notes.
And that’s a shame given that, musically, the film works well, as does its ability to capture the loony spirit of the ’80s and the early days of U2.
It also features a poignant and gleefully camp final performance from Pete Postelthwaite and a nice impersonation of Bono from Neil McCann that are worthy of special mention.
Sadly, though, even its better attributes cannot prevent Killing Bono from becoming a tiresome journey that you’ll just want to end.
Running time: 114mins
UK DVD Release: August 29, 2011
- Buy it on DVD (Amazon)
- Read our review
- Ben Barnes and Robert Sheehan interview
- NicK Hamm interview
- Neil McCormick interview