Review: Killing Bono
PLOT: During the eighties, two brothers (Ben Barnes & Robert Sheehan) attempt to become rock stars, while living in the shadow of their former high-school chums, who went on to global stardom as U2.
REVIEW: KILLING BONO follows in the tradition of British comedies like THE FULL MONTY, or GREENFINGERS. It follows a bunch of lovable losers on an impossible dream they're unlikely to realize- but along the way manages to find something life-affirming in that they at least pursued the dream that was important to them.
Apparently based on a true (ish) story, about two Irish lads who start their own pop group, Shook- Up, while their high-school buddies go on to super stardom as U2. Why did it work for one band, and not the other? Such is fame, although don't tell that to the film's de facto hero, Neil McCormick (Ben Barnes). Ever since he was a lad, he was convinced that he was bound for greatness, and early on, when his younger brother, Ivan, has the chance to join U2 when they were still a high school band, he persuades Bono (an uncanny Martin McCann) to find someone else.
As McCormick, Ben Barnes is incredibly solid, which was a surprise to me as after the NARNIA films I must admit that I wrote him off as just another pretty boy. How wrong I was, as Barnes is extremely likable as McCormick, who could have come off as insufferable in another actor's hands. It's certainly a change of pace for him, but if the right folks see KILLING BONO, it could leads to a longevity a lot of his fellow heartthrobs don't normally get (it's hard to imagine any of the fellas from TWILIGHT being as good as Barnes is here). It's a fun performance, and Barnes seems to be in on the joke that for all of his swagger, McCormick is nowhere near as talented as the soulful Bono, who in turn is presented as a pretty swell guy (probably necessary to get the rights to some of their songs).
As the other-half of Shook-Up, we get Robert Sheehan, who, while taking a bit of a backseat to Barnes, is nonetheless very effective and winning as the impressionable Ivan, who possesses the talent his brother lacks, but remains a victim of his sibling's delusions of grandeur. Krysten Ritter (who once did a great arc on BREAKING BAD), makes an appealing love interest for Barnes- although i found it odd that her character is unceremoniously ditched toward the end. The insanely talented Peter Serafinowicz (star of the great LOOK AROUND YOU, in addition to being the voice of Darth Maul) also has a gem of a part as the boy's doped up, mullet-wearing manager, complete with a wife who likes shagging the lead singers of the bands he manages. He also has a great line where he suggests replacing Neil with Andrew Ridgely of Wham, which got a good chuckle out of me.
Tragically, KILLING BONO will also be known as the great Pete Postlethwaite's final role, as the boys queenish landlord. It's a fun part, but it's distracting in that Postlethwaite was obviously very sick during filming, having already lost all of his hair to cancer treatments, and he looks distressingly frail. Nevertheless, he gives it his all, and is very funny.
Suffice to say, I really had a good time with KILLING BONO, and hopefully now that it's making it's way to North America, more people will be able to discover it's charms. Director Nick Hamm, has put together an engaging, fun look at the mid-eighties pop-scene- that's especially good if you're a fan of the era (mullets and shag hairdos abound here). It's certainly lightweight, but there's nothing at all wrong with that. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
|Extra Tidbit:||Here's what the real Shook-Up sounded like. Eeesh! U2 they were not.|