DVD Review: Killing Bono (2011)

on Tuesday, August 30, 2011
'Killing Bono' (UK DVD Release: 29 August '11) // Words: Saam Das

Depending on your outlook, it might be a disappointment to learn that 'Killing Bono' actually has very little to do with its supposed subject matter. Instead, it's a tale of two brothers and their struggle to make it in the music industry, while their schoolmates go on to form one of the biggest bands going, in the eventual guise of U2.

'Killing Bono' is the screen adaptation of Neil McCormick's real-life attempts at becoming a musician, albeit a melodramatic, fictionalised version. Here, McCormick is played by Ben Barnes, while his brother Ivan is portrayed by Robert Sheehan, best known for his work on 'Misfits'. Neil, in particular, is good pals with Bono (Martin McCann) and persuades him not to take on Ivan as a band member, while telling his brother he failed his audition.

That's the first mistake of many for Neil, and as the bigger U2 get, the more his guilt of depriving his brother a better chance at fame and his failures compound. This definitely isn't the story of U2, although their increasing profile is used as a framing device throughout the film.

The narrative is more reflective of how Neil manages to make the wrong decisions at almost every turn - turning down favours from Bono (apparently the patron saint of Irish rock), involving himself with a gangster (Stanley Townsend) and continually lying to his brother and bandmates. And there's more. But you know, spoilers and all that.

Neil's repeated errors, jealousy and bitterness don't just wear down his on-screen character and counterparts as the film goes on but also the viewer. With a running time of around two hours, 'Killing Bono' is by no means a smooth journey. But each time you consider switching off, there's something to pull you back in - generally in the form of the occasional witty quote, such as claiming the Pope "has no appreciation of the live music scene" and "Can you explain Frankie Goes To Hollywood? I can't.".

A big problem is that the toil of the McCormicks' band Shook Up unfortunately isn't particularly special. Hundreds of bands who have appeared on this website are sadly going through the same thing right now. Okay, so most of them probably aren't involved with gangsters or gay landlords played by Pete Postlethwaite (in his final film role), or have hopped through several genres like Shook Up but many bands can echo that same general struggle to make it.

I suppose what 'Killing Bono' does ably demonstrate is the oft-inexplicable nature of the music industry - where two bands can find themselves so far apart despite sharing so many similarities. It doesn't really give us any further insight on the situation though, as we don't really learn why U2 succeed but we do see McCormick messing everything up. All the time.


Rather disappointingly there are none. Unless you count subtitles, and scene selection. Which I don't.

STREAM: U2 - I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For (Live @ Glastonbury 2011)

'Killing Bono' is available to purchase at amazon.co.uk etc.

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