Killing Bono (2011) – Review

What would you do if you missed your chance to be part of one of the world's biggest bands... ?

Imagine if you had the chance to be in the biggest rock band in the world and didn’t even know it? Well this is the premise explored in Killing Bono, a film based on the memoirs of The Daily Telegraph’s music critic, Neil McCormick. McCormick’s book ‘I was Bono’s Doppleganger’ and the film itself deal with the bitterness Neil McCormick (Ben Barnes) feels towards his old classmate Bono’s rise transformation into a rock legend and his own failings as a musician. To make matters worse for the hapless and hopeless Neil he also stopped his brother from joining U2 in the early days and failed to tell him…

The film sets off in great style. There is a great cast, a great premise and some genuinely funny moments. Martin McCann is a real treat portraying Bono as a real Mr nice guy, before the sunglasses and the save the world crusades. Unfortunately, his screen time is minimal, leaving the audience with wannabe rock star Neil and his brother Ivan, (Robert Sheehan, the guy from Misfits.) as they attempt to take over the world, but first, take over U2.

It would be cruel and untrue to say their exploits in London are tiresome but they do come very close. The comedy begins to border on farcical and the film relies on Bono to pull the audience’s attention back to the film. Perhaps this is indeed the point. Neil McCormick is the leading man, yet it is still all about Bono.

After struggling for a number of years the boys, with the help of a gangster from back home in Ireland, land a record deal. It is while touring that everything is revealed; Ivan finds out he could have been the fifth member of U2 whilst Neil is then kicked out of the band and returns back home to a dangerous gangster with a bathtub who wants paying back.

The film wraps itself up when U2 return home to play a local gig, a gig for which they offered Neil a support slot, which he proudly refused. The brothers are, of course, reunited by the ties of blood and some wise words from Bono. Bono also puts the offer of the support act back on the table, suggesting a happy ending is on the cards.

The film threatens to be incredible but only manages to be decent. The idea of missing out on the chance to be a guitarist in U2 sets a precedent for the film but the criminal capers (which too many British films rely on) and the farcical nature of the McCormick’s exploit in London undermine the originality of the premise. Worth a watch, whether you love or hate U2, it also features a camp, Hawaiian shirt-wearing Pete Postlethwaite, in his last ever performance.

Best performance: Martin McCann as Bono.
Best scene: Four lads on top of a double-decker bus announcing they wish to be known as U2.
Best line: Neil: ‘Still hasn’t found what he’s looking for? He has got everything he ever wanted!’
Watch this if you liked: Sex Drugs & Rock and Roll, Control and Get Him To the Greek.

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