U2 is one of the most popular bands on the planet; they have devoted fans all over the world and Bono is easily one of the most recognisable figures in pop culture history. I can’t bloody stand them. So a film about a man who blames Bono for all his shortcomings sounds like something that would be right up my alley. Ben Barnes stars as real life Neil McCormick in this adaptation of his book “Killing Bono: I was Bono’s Doppelganger” which details the story of how his band could never make it whilst U2 who came from a similar background skyrocketed.
The story is a strong idea for a film and is very reminiscent of the script that was floating around Hollywood for years, Chad Schmidt where a young actor (played by Brad Pitt) was always left competing against the more popular Brad Pitt, sadly the idea that is played out here is nowhere near as clever as that premise nor is it as funny as it thinks it is. The strongest problem with the film is lead character of Neil, he is just incredibly unlikeable, he whines and complains about his various problems but they are all down to his own bad judgement. He reject Bono’s various attempts to help his band out but then later complains about how famous U2 have gotten whilst he has nothing. Clearly no man in his right mind would turn down the chance to open for U2 but it just seems that this is not a character we can relate to, let alone like.
Neil’s far more likeable brother Ivan (Sheehan) is given far too little screen time and in a bizarre twist the most compelling character in the film is Bono (Martin McCann) (perhaps not to annoy the world famous superstar). The rest of the cast is rounded out with strong performances from people like Pete Postlethwaite (in his final role) and Peter Serafinowicz, whilst American actress Krysten Ritter plays the girlfriend with very little to do, a stock character I’d hoped film had evolved out of by now. The character played by Stanley Townsend weighs the film down with an extra plot about a gangster who funded the bands dreams and now wants his money back, the film might not have the most filled out plot but this tangent felt silly.
Director Nick Hamm does a great job of recreating the time and feel of the uprising of U2 form the late 70s through the 80s. The costumes and sets are all perfect, it looks wonderful but the pacing is an absolute nightmare. The film is only 114 minutes long but it feels like an age. We are stuck watching failure after failure from these two blokes and it feels a little un-relentless, the humour that pads out the script is pretty sporadic with most of the jokes falling flat (though a few shots at Bono hit the funny bone often enough).
The film is capably made, proving that Hamm is a strong director and shouldn’t be wasting his time with rubbish like his previous film Godsend (or this for that matter). An unlikeable character is fine to have as your lead character but to make them so difficult to relate to is a real script killer making your audience bored from the get go. There are a handful of good performances and the film is well handled but the script and lead character just don’t go anywhere you hope they would.
Killing Bono is out on DVD from 29/08/11