Friday 23 March 2018

Movies: Killing Bono **


In his 2003 book, I Was Bono's Doppelganger, failed rock god and Mount Temple alumnus Neil McCormick described in fanciful terms how his attempt to storm the music business compared with that of his former classmate, Bono.

Back in the late 70s the two were friends, and the frontmen of rival north Dublin bands. But while U2 coasted to world domination McCormick's career imploded horribly, mainly due to his own stupidity. It's this tall story that forms the basis of Killing Bono, a chaotic comedy directed by English journeyman Nick Hamm.

Ben Barnes (sporting a surprisingly decent middle class Dublin accent) is McCormick, who has just formed a band with his younger brother Ivan (Robert Sheehan) when he hears that Paul Hewson is also setting up a group.

After The Vibe (as U2 were originally called) blow the competition away at a Mount Temple band contest, Neil becomes obsessed with making it big before Bono does. When U2 release a well-received first album, Boy, it's a setback for the McCormicks, but Neil then hatches a plan to move to London and make their name there. Ivan goes along with it, but what he doesn't know is that Neil has borrowed money from a Dublin criminal called Machin (Stanley Townsend) to fund their journey. And every time they get close to hitting the big time, Neil's huge ego conspires to undermine them.

I suppose a half-watchable film might have been assembled from that rambling storyline, but Killing Bono certainly isn't it. The film founders on two large obstacles: headless direction and a dreadful script cobbled together by veteran TV writers Dick Clement and Ian La Franais. This pair have a track record in mangling Irish source material (it was they who battered Roddy Doyle's Commitments into bland submission), and their lack of feel for the nuances of Hiberno-English does not help Killing Bono's cause.

Whether or not McCormick's idea could have been turned into a decent comedy by anyone, though, is a moot point. As it is, a badly structured film leaves the young principals clueless and floundering.

Killing Bono doesn't even bother being chronologically accurate: a pole-dancing club in a 80s rural Irish village is just one of its many sloppy gaffes. The sole bright spot is Martin McCann's drawling Bono: he's perfectly cast, and is the only convincing thing is this whole sorry mess.

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