Review: Killing Bono

Despite the edgy, daring title, Killing Bono is resolutely square. Deceitfully so: though it opens with a failed musician planning to assassinate him while U2 are in Dublin for a concert on the Joshua Tree tour.

Bono (a superb performance by Martin McCann who really gets his air of well intentioned pomposity) is the most sympathetic character in the piece.

Neil McCormick (Ben Barnes) and his brother Ivan (Robert Sheehan) had been school friends with the future superstars and Neil had scuppered his brother's chance to join the fledgling U2 believing they could be more successful on their own.

The film tours the underbelly of the 1980s music scene, as the brothers veer from punk to new romantic to stadium rock, always managing to avoid success while U2 get more and more globally famous.

Killing Bono comes to us from the pen of Dick Clement and Ian la Frenais, who will be forever cherished as the providers of Porridge and The Likely Lads.

Rock'n'roll films rarely turn out well but despite having mastered it with their first bash, The Commitments, they still feel compelled to keep trying. Still Crazy wasn't great and Killing Bono is less great. Possibly because director Nick Hamm is no Alan parker but also because Neil is not an endearing character.

He's the comic character that fails through wilful stupidity. it is almost as if he is revelling in his own comic failure: he's like a slapstick comic who keeps slipping over the same banana skin.

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It's billed as a comedy but it's more comedy drama. There are maybe six or seven really funny lines and they really stick out.

The theme of how the success of people close to you can distort and twist those left behind is a poignant, compelling one but Killing Bono is played as a light romp.

The film was spoiled for me because I guessed the ending early. Spoiler – the name Neil McCormick and the early scenes of him dabbling in the world of music journalism are the giveaways.

An Education got away with its telling of the Lynn Barber story but a film about the man who would grow up to be the music critic on the Daily Telegraph is not an origins story I want to hear.

Killing Bono (15)

Director: Nick Hamm

With: Ben Barnes, Robert Sheehan, Krysten Ritter, Pete Postlethwaite, Peter Serafinaowicz and Martin McCann

length: 114 mins