[pullquote cite=”” type=”left, right”][amazon text=Amazon&template=carousel&chan=That Film Guy&asin=B0084NZEWY][/pullquote] Based on Neil McCormack’s Memoirs Killing Bono: I was a Bono Doppleganger, the 2011 film Killing Bono, highlights the failures of a band who once gigged with, and were friends to the now world famous U2, especially lead singer Bono. Not a traditional film, it tries to chart the McCormack brothers throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s with an almost satirical edge.
Neil McCormack (Ben Barnes) and brother Ivan (Robert Sheehan) start up a band in Ireland in the mid-1970s. Ivan is picked by school friend Paul Hewson (later Bono) to be second lead guitar in his emerging band The Hype. Neil rejects the offer without ever telling his brother on the assumption that they will be more popular. The McCormack brothers then embark on a 10-year failing musical career whilst The Hype change their name to U2 and become global superstars.
Killing Bono’s premise of two bands ˜umbilically linked’ is rather novel. There are various moments where Neil could’ve taken the easy option and ridden the coat-tails of Bono and the band, but he insists on making it famous on his own. It’s preposterous, but you can understand the logic from someone so convinced of his own talent that after each of these events, whilst you’re screaming at him, you do grow to care about him.
It’s an interesting performance from Barnes, who shows decent acting chops playing a teenager who grows up an embittered failure. Sheehan, however, manages to upstage him as the younger brother with more talent who slowly learns the truth and has to wrestle with familial bonds over super-stardom.
The soundtrack, as you’d expect is top-notch, neatly charting the rise of U2 through the era. Cameos from the late Pete Postlethwaite (looking very frail) and Peter Serafinowicz are welcome as the action drags somewhat in the middle portion. This might have suited a TV release at Christmas rather than a full feature film launch, as the cinematography is very simplistic.
There are laughs scattered throughout, although not as many as you would expect for a comedy. The film-makers obviously saw this as an opportunity for a poignant drama as much as it is a comedy, but the casting and dialogue stop it from ever expanding upon it’s original premise.