Killing Bono Review

Killing Bono film still


We still haven’t found what we’re looking for.

The ponytail, the jerkin, the meaningless moniker, the preposterous quotes or the grand-standing, empty lyrics – there are plenty of reasons to dislike Bono. Music critic and former wannabe rock star Neil McCormick had a better reason to resent him than most.

In any other city, at any other time, McCormick’s arrogance and charisma would have carried him to super stardom, but he grew up friends with a man twice as arrogant and charismatic, supported the guy’s band only to hear the girls scream louder when he came on stage and then watched as Bono and U2 went from a silly-sounding Dublin joke to the world’s biggest, hoariest rock band.

"He rises, I fall. He just gets bigger and better," whines McCormick in the opening minutes and his self-pity only intensifies as his band takes knocks and Bono’s gets hits.

Ben Barnes plays this essentially unlikeable character with enough wide-eyed passion to sell him. Robert Sheehan as his less gregarious brother, Ivan, has a tougher job, but he’s superb, flicking between bawdy co-conspirator and betrayed ally.

Among the supporting cast, Martin McCann is uncannily similar to the subject of McCormick’s ire and Pete Postlethwaite takes a tired, but classy turn as the boys’ archly lascivious gay landlord in his final film before his death from cancer. The role isn’t worthy of him, but then he rarely found ones that were.

Nick Hamm shoots the film as a romp in a style strangely reminiscent of the Britpop era – think Stefan Schwartz’s Shooting Fish or the Channel 4 series The Young Person’s Guide to Becoming a Rock Star – but it’s all power chords and no intricacy.

You sense there’s a quieter, more interesting story behind the bombast – that of McCormick now and how youthful ambition shapes us as we age. ‘One of these men is not a music legend’, runs the caption beneath the photo of David Bowie, Brian Eno, Bono and Guess Who? prominently displayed on his website.

It’s a joke, it’s a dig, but on the evidence of Killing Bono, it’s also a cold, hard truth that this film just doesn’t address.

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