FILM REVIEW: Killing Bono (15)

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The pop music landscape is littered with the shattered dreams of artists who were never in the right place at the right time with the right song.

Their stars burned brightly then faded before they could ever soar.

In 1976, a group of 14-year-old students from Mount Temple Comprehensive School in Dublin answered an advertisement on the school noticeboard to form a new band.

Inspired by the punk rock acts of the era, the teenagers performed under the name The Hype with Paul Hewson on lead vocals and David Evans on guitar.

Soon after, The Hype became U2.

Hewson rechristened himself Bono with Evans adopting the moniker The Edge.

For one of Hewson’s classmates, Neil McCormick, who harboured similar musical ambitions, the inexorable rise of U2 sowed the seeds of intense jealousy that would poison his life for more than a decade.

Based on the book I Was Bono’s Doppelganger, Killing Bono is a rags to more rags fairytale centred on brothers Neil (Ben Barnes) and Ivan (Robert Sheehan), who attend the same school as Hewson (Martin McCann).

“See you on Top Of The Pops boys,” chuckles Paul as news of the band sends ripples of excitement through the school.

Neil covets his friend’s newfound celebrity and when Paul reveals he wants Ivan to play second guitar in The Hype, Neil vetoes the suggestion without consulting his sibling, determined to form his own band with Ivan.

U2 slowly conquer the world and Neil and Ivan pursue their dreams in London.

They find a cheap warehouse apartment overseen by gay landlord Karl (Pete Postlethwaite), whose only stipulation is, “No drugs, unless shared with the landlord to supplement the rent.”

Next-door neighbour Gloria (Krysten Ritter) becomes the band’s manager, guiding them to a record contract with foul-mouthed label owner Hammond (Peter Serafinowicz).

As the band goes through various guises - Frankie Corpse & The Undertakers, Yeah!Yeah! and Shook Up! - Neil conceals how close Ivan came to being in U2.

Killing Bono should be a rip-roaring treat with a script by Simon Maxwell and British comedy legends Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais.

Certainly, there are some polished one-liners (“You could be the next James Joyce... only with better punctuation!”) but it’s hard to laugh when we’re constantly irritated by Neil.

His catalogue of errors defies belief and when Bono offers him a support slot at Croke Park, we’re almost screaming at the screen as Neil responds, “I think I’d rather play to 500 of our fans than 50,000 of yours.”

Barnes plies a credible Irish accent alongside co-star Sheehan, and the mercurial Pete Postlethwaite remind us of his deeply missed talents in a handful of colourful scenes.

He deserved better than this for his swansong.

By Damon Smith

:: SWEARING :: SEX :: VIOLENCE :: RATING: 5/10

Released: April 1 (UK & Ireland), 113 mins