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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

"Killing Bono", a music tragicomedy obsessed with U2

Killing Bono

A very original premise for a loser's tale. A real story with elements of dark comedy, tragedy, traumas, obsessions... and U2. What's not to be intrigued for?

"Killing Bono" is the screen adaptation of Neil McCormick's book "Killing Bono: I Was Bono's Doppelgänger". A very peculiar autobiography of a period in his life (he's a very well known music journalist, usually linked with U2 of course) as he tried to climb the long and tough stairway to music success while his school friend Paul Hewson tried to do the same with some other pals that were named The Hype, Feedback... and then U2.

The amazing thing is that the story, mostly, is true. The McCormick brothers, Neil (played by Ben Barnes) and Ivan (Robert Sheehan) attempted to make it into the music industry with several incarnations (including the al-most famous, Shook Up!) and styles while their secondary school friends, which Ivan was close to join at a very early stage, became massive as U2. The clash between their frustrations and the growing success of Bono's band poises the two, especially Neil, and makes the film engaging, and surprising.

Despite its clear it is focused on the McCormick's story, there are many things going on at the same time on "Killing Bono" to keep you amused and attentive. Obviously, it will appeal U2 fans, as we can have a very different perspective of the origins of our beloved band, and because the actor that plays Bono, Martin McCann, is strangely similar to the Irish singer. But also for the ones that just love films about music, cause this is a quite funny insight of the little (and not so little) dramas of wanting to have a group and, of course, be heard. Music industry and many miseries and turbulences appear, but the passion for music never ends. There's also another quite attractive side, more sombre (despite the film doesn't want to be dramatic), on envy and egos, arriving to the point of becoming a seriously unhealthy obsession for Neil, who is on the verge of self-destruction. And finally, but perhaps the less interesting and where Nick Hamm and writers Ian La Fresnais and Dick Clement (who were the responsible of the script of the lovely, unforgettable, "The Commitments") get more conventional, predictable, is the adventuresque part, that I guess that tries to help humorous part of the film.

Sheehan and Barnes acting is good, particularly likeable when they confront each other and tensions arise. There's also the remarkable, and sadly, last appearance of Pete Postlethwaite (he will always be remembered for the role of Giuseppe Conlon in "In the Name of the Father") on a film, and some other secondary roles help you to keep the pace. But if a complaint has to be made is not on rhythm, but on the overall tone of "Killing Bono". The second half of the film is, quite clearly, a more dramatic one. When the truth long-time hidden is revealed and Neil's devils explode, the movie is on the verge of becoming a very dark take on human nature. But director Hamm goes for a more friendly, comic approach, so the film ends in a lightweight manner that doesn't really fit with Neil's complex character and his tribulations. Besides, is quite hard to justify the lack of U2 music in a film where the group is such a pivotal element.

Despite its uneven tone, "Killing Bono" is a very interesting and original film. Plus, if you are a U2 fan, you probably won't find what you're looking for, but you'll be inevitably attracted by the film.

SCORE: 6,5/10

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