‘Killing Bono’ tells the almost true story of the McCormick brothers, whose inability to find fame and fortune as recording artists is especially galling since their old school friends turn out to be the formative members of the band U2. Ivan McCormick (Robert Sheehan) might well have ended up with Bono and co. had he known about the offer to join the group that his brother Neil (Ben Barnes) turned down on his behalf.
Anytime opportunity knocked for the McCormicks, Neil had an uncanny knack of slamming the door in its face. His list of foolhardy errors includes scheduling a gig on the day of the Pope’s visit and therefore losing the audience to John Paul II.
So, as U2 become famous across the world the McCormicks struggle to get off the starting blocks. Financed by a notorious gangster (Stanley Townsend) they seek fame and fortune in a New Romantic London where they bicker endlessly whilst being messed around by here-today-gone-tomorrow record executives.
Based on Neil McCormick’s book ‘I Was Bono’s Doppelganger’, the film has a screenplay by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, who visited similar territory in 1991 with ‘The Commitments’. Whereas that film had a wonderfully earthy quality, ‘Killing Bono’ is nearer to cartoon farce. The actors play their parts as crudely as possible, virtually shouting their dialogue. Little time is given over to moments of pathos and the film is only occasionally amusing.
There is a faint whiff of a film being tailored for a mainstream, international audience - perhaps a case of Richard Curtisitis. This is evident from the presence of Ben ‘Prince Caspian’ Barnes in the lead and the portrayal of London as a single street of never-ending black cabs and red buses. This may be warmly comforting to an American audience but cringeworthy to anyone who actually lives in the city.
There some brighter points in the film. Peter Serafinowicz is one, playing a ridiculous record executive. The late, great Pete Postlethwaite, here in his final role truncated by his illness, is also good as a camp landlord who takes more than a passing interest in the McCormick boys.
U2 fans need not fear, despite ‘Killing Bono’s sensationalist title, the man himself (played by Martin McCann) is never in any real danger and is treated with messiah-like reverence. What may disappoint the band’s followers is that U2’s music is heard only in snatches, and instead we have the sounds of the various groups formed by the McCormicks. Not exactly ‘The Joshua Tree.’ Ironically, for a film which aims to be about the lost chances in life, ‘Killing Bono’ just comes across as one big missed opportunity.