Persistence is an admirable quality to possess. Our parents instilled the old adage, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” to encourage us to not give up — anything is possible. Well, that’s not necessarily true; there’s a point when it becomes pathetic to keep trying — no matter how long and hard you keep head-butting into a concrete wall, you won’t break through it. Neil McCormick and, to a lesser extent his brother Ivan, are the head-butters in Killing Bono. Their concrete wall is trying to best the fame and fortune afforded to their childhood friend, Paul Hewson (better known to us as Bono), from a little band known as U2.
And wouldn’t you know it, if Neil wasn’t his own worst enemy, he may very well have succeeded in his endeavor (but probably not).
Based on Neil’s memoir “Killing Bono: I Was Bono’s Doppelganger,” Killing Bono chronicles every bone-headed move Neil makes from Dublin to London and back again, including but not limited to: Cheating on his manger girlfriend Gloria (Krysten Ritter), sleeping with the wife of the band’s producer, lying to his brother and seeking financing from less than honorable people. Yep, this guy was so insistent he could make it on his own, he ruined his brother’s chances at stardom and nearly cost them both their lives. This makes for an interesting dilemma for the audience — Neil is such an asshole, you can’t, in good conscious, root for him, but because he’s so convinced of his ability (plus the fact his brother, who is undeserving of the situation, is stuck with him) you can’t help but hope it all comes together at the end.
Director Nick Hamm flips between comedic and serious tones in telling this supposedly based on a true story story of doomed brothers. More often than not his choices fit the moment but there are times when his attempts at a more dramatic flair miss the mark by not going far enough. The third act also plays out like a disjointed add-on having a decidedly different feel from the first two acts (I’d also question whether the events actually occurred). Luckily for Hamm his two leads — Ben Barnes (better known as Prince Caspian of The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian fame) and Robert Sheehan (Season of the Witch) — are up to the cleanup task when needed. While they’re on stage during one of the many band incarnations (The Undertakers, Yeah! Yeah!, Shook Up!) they, especially Barnes, exhibit good stage presence (Barnes even does his own singing, I think). Off stage their performances are good too; by the end Sheehan’s Ivan tired me out with his overly pacificistic(?) actions, though. Both are upstaged by Peter Serafinowicz as the boys’ producer when he pops in.
It’s all a very incredulous journey. And quite dimwitted, if you think about. If Neil swallowed just a pinch of pride this movie would have been either wholly unnecessary or have a completely different outcome. As it is, however, Killing Bono is an amusing, 114-minute PSA that drums the beat that when opportunity knocks, don’t be a dick and not answer the door or, even worse, spit in its face if you do.