Director: Nick Hamm
Cast: Ben Barnes, Robert Sheehan, Krysten Ritter, Pete Postlethwaite
Duration: 1 hr 53 mins
Let’s get this over with. Killing Bono is dreadful. For a comedy, it’s about as funny as a nightclub stabbing. For a music film, it will actively make you dislike music. And Bands. And the ‘70s. And the ‘80s. And human beings. It’s based on a memoir called I Was Bono’s Doppelganger (he was not) by Neil McCormick, who wore tartan trousers to the premiere. I’ll just let that sink in for a while…
In the twin leads, there is one relatively charming, cocksure, slightly talented Irishman (Robert Sheehan as Ivan) who probably couldn’t say ‘no’ to the role, but probably should have. There’s also a vanilla-faced Englishman (Ben Barnes as Neil, with a decent Irish accent, to be fair) whose witless mugging and lack of comedic timing render the whole cack-handed calamity like a contemporary spin on a Carry-On-Paul-Hewson-1970s-British-sex-comedy. But not as funny. This is truly saying something. These pointless pillocks (brothers, by the way) mince their way through ‘70s Éire and ‘80s London in all manner of ‘hilarious’ poncey retro threads, stare wistfully at the latest U2 smash-hit record every 10 minutes and make mawkish comments about how they’re ‘gonna make it on our own, man’. They never do because they were appalling.
Paramount of all the apocalyptic failures of Killing Bono is that the audience can actually relish in the brothers’ misfortune because they are pricks; vain, self-important, delusional, clueless pricks. Now, let’s do a small case study here. Those abhorrent qualities could be easily attributed to the greatest rock and roll band (and movie) of all time. Messrs. St. Hubbins, Tufnell, Savage, Shrimpton and Smalls…aka Spinal Tap. But for all of ‘Tap’s blind buffoonery and treading water in a sea of retarded sexuality, we adored those loveable dunces. We wanted them to succeed, even though it was so funny to see them fail. We didn’t want them to gig in that airforce base or play support to those puppets. Director Nick Hamm – and to a lesser extent, vintage Commitments scribes Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais – should have looked to Britain’s Loudest BandTM and tried, at least, to channel their sustained charm. Their Neil McCormack has the foresight to book a showcase gig on 13 July 1985, the same day as a gargantuan gathering of the world’s most superist music megastars that you might have heard of – Live Aid. The McCormick brothers fail yet again. But without empathy or sympathy for them, there’s a gaping chasm of humanity in Killing Bono. It’s supposed to be funny, but the only reaction to that latest swerve off their career trajectory is little more than mounting contempt.
Although it is boil-your-piss-in-your-bladder infuriating, there are admittedly two things that stopped your humble pundit from turning his trusty Baretta 9mm on himself. 1. It is the final screen appearance of the mighty Pete Postlethwaite. 2. Belfast boy Martin McCann is surprisingly good as the Dublin deity himself, Bono. But their combined screen time is probably less than 10 minutes, leaving the major chunk of the broad farce to be stuffed with Sheehan and Barnes’ aping. The latter seems to think that films are recorded in front of a live studio audience, and he wants even the guy in the very back row to see his facial expressions. He sets that tone, and the cast follow. It’s painful, amateur and monumentally unfunny.
In an actual great rock and roll comedy 24 Hr Party People, Steve Coogan as Tony Wilson (mis)quotes John Ford saying, “when you have to choose between the truth and the legend, print the legend.” Although Killing Bono playing fast and loose with the truth (e.g. exotically sleazy stripclubs in 1970s suburban Ireland, McCormack bearing down on Bono with a handgun) is fine, there is no legend behind the McCormick brothers. Nobody cared then and nobody cares now.