Un­for­get­tably dire

wastes this po­ten­tially in­ter­est­ing tale of Ire­land’s great rock wannabes. Per­for­mances aside, the film en­tirely misses the mark, writes Don­ald Clarke

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Reviews -

EV­ERY HACK in the coun­try will be seek­ing a U2 song ti­tle to sum­marise the sub­ject mat­ter and qual­ity of this much-hyped adap­ta­tion of Neil McCormick’s mem­oir con­cern­ing chronic Bono envy. Is the film, ahem, Even Bet­ter Than the Real Thing? Not re­ally. Does it move in Mys­te­ri­ous Ways? Not so as you’d no­tice. Do you know what? I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Look­ing For.

If you think that joke’s aw­ful, you might want to avoid Killing Bono. Sadly, there is a U2 tune that sums


the piece up quite nicely. It has a three-letter ti­tle and was fa­mously per­formed at Live Aid. (Work it our for your­self, folks.)

There are the mak­ings of a good film in McCormick’s yarn. As the chaotic re­sult tells it, Neil (Ben Barnes), a some­time jour­nal­ist for Hot Press, grew up with the fu­ture su­per­stars. He and his brother Ivan (Robert Shee­han) also formed a band, but, as the years pro­gressed and U2 soared, McCormick’s troupe – post-punk chameleons in the high NME style – never quite es­caped the bar­gain bucket.

Neil’s an­guish was coloured by guilt. In the early days, U2 had asked him if Ivan might like to join their group, but, ar­ro­gant and am­bi­tious, the pro­tag­o­nist never passed on the mes­sage to his brother.

Far be it from us to tell vet­eran screen­writ­ers Ian La Fre­nais and Dick Cle­ment what sort of film they should have penned, but one can imag­ine the pro­ject work­ing as a post-Nick Hornby tale of male angst. What we get, how­ever, is a fit­ful, noisy romp that never set­tles into a com­fort­able rhythm.

When McCormick’s band re­lo­cate to Lon­don, they are for­ever bump­ing into colour­ful char­ac­ters and en­coun­ter­ing hi­lar­i­ous mis­un­der­stand­ings. At times, Killing Bono, with its shoddy sets and sham­bolic plot­ting, comes across like a Bri­tish sex farce from the 1970s. At oth­ers, it re­sem­bles far, far too many re­cent Ir­ish crime come­dies. Is there an “amus­ing” crime boss with a se­ries of ec­cen­tric habits? There is and, de­spite be­ing gal­lantly played by the mighty Stan­ley Townsend, Big Micko (or what­ever he’s called) breaks no new ground in this undis­tin­guished field.

The ac­tors do de­serve praise. Though woe­fully un­der-di­rected (when three or more char­ac­ters share a scene they tend to stand in a rigid line as if ap­ing an early U2 pub­lic­ity shot), ev­ery­body does his or her best with the un­con­vinc­ing di­a­logue. Barnes fash­ions a good Dublin ac­cent. Shee­han preens and struts to tol­er­a­ble ef­fect.

The ex­cel­lent Martin McCann is due par­tic­u­lar sym­pa­thy. Be­ing asked to play Bono is rather like be­ing asked to play the Cliffs of Mo­her — the sa­cred icon is al­ways go­ing to tower over the per­for­mance, how­ever adept. McCann gets the voice just right. He has that dis­con­cert­ing con­fi­dence. But the film-mak­ers’ fear of giv­ing of­fence fa­tally neuters the role. Ro­ma­nian rep­re­sen­ta­tions of Ni­co­lae Ceaus­escu dur­ing the Soviet era were more will­ing to poke fun.

It’s hardly worth point­ing out how skewed is the film’s view of Ire­land in the 1970s and 1980s, but we’ll do so any­way. Is that a strip club I see? What’s this with U2’s de­but al­bum be­ing touted as the sound­track to the Pope’s visit, when in fact it was re­leased a full year af­ter those sa­cred events in the Phoenix Park? Why is ev­ery­one talk­ing as if they’ve just sat through a marathon view­ing of The OC?

Such things mat­ter be­cause they con­trib­ute to the over­whelm­ing sense of phoni­ness that hangs around Killing Bono. If it were funny, the lack of au­then­tic­ity wouldn’t mat­ter. If it were au­then­tic, then the dole­ful dearth of hu­mour would, well, mat­ter some­what less.

Hang on. Wasn’t there a U2 song called Lemon?

Des­tined for higher things: Martin McCann as the man for­merly known as Paul David Hewson

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