Killing Bono is based on the memoir of film protagonist, Neil McCormick, entitled Killing Bono: I Was Bono’s Doppelganger. Yet, despite knowing the film is, at the very least, loosely based on true events, I couldn’t believe what the film was showing me. Could that be more indicative of how ludicrous the real story is, or a sense of fatalism in the film that aggravated me more than it should have?
Director: Nick Hamm
Release Date: November 4, 2011 (NY), November 11, 2011 (LA)
Killing Bono is about two brothers, Neil (Ben Barnes) and Ivan (Robert Sheehan), as they attempt to make it in the music industry… if only they can get out of the shadow of their school friends’ immensely popular band, U2. As with all bands and music scenes, it’s not just about your level of talent, which the brothers’ bands do have (in some degree); it’s about luck and the right timing. However, as is the crux of the film’s plot, it’s Neil’s selfishness and fatalistic personality that holds both his and his brother’s lives back.
The main problem I had with the film was the “comedic” tone. With the film’s direction, audiences are supposed to find humor in Neil’s unfortunate/self-deprecating circumstances. The problem, though, is that it’s not… funny. Is it really funny to see somebody constantly fail because they refuse to stop shooting themselves in the foot? This fact, knowing that it’s based off of real events, is what really irked me.
Does this film work as a satire or exaggeration? It would help explain the over-the-top moments Neil goes through, such as the glam costumes, the David Bowie-inspired singing, etc. Then again, considering the timeframe, it all makes sense… What doesn’t, though, is just how absurd and fatalistic Neil is. I’m trying to keep this within the framework of the film itself, and not the validity of the events it’s based on. However, if that were the case, Neil is an infuriating and unlikable protagonist whose story you just don’t care for.
That’s not to say, however, that the acting isn’t bad, because it’s not that bad. Barnes performs reasonably enough as the lead. However, with the questionably “comedic” tone, he’s stuck between playing this caricature of a character, or a complete asshole with no real emotional depth. Again, this isn’t really on Barnes’ performance so much as the direction/script. Sidenote: Pete Postlewaite has a minor role as the McCormick brothers’ landlord, effectively being his last role before his death.
Killing Bono, despite the promise of a comedic look at a band serving as U2’s direct opposite, just falls flat with questionable direction. Simply put, Nick Hamm’s direction still hasn’t found what it’s been looking for.