Ok, so I promised some movie review and like a typical graduate student I haven’t had much time to rewatch a number of movies that I wanted to tell you about, so I have taken spring break to catch up on my movie watching and my reviews, as well as doing a major buttload of reading. So here is another long overdue movie review, this one retrieved from a bargain DVD bin.
Killing Bono (2011)
What if you had the chance to become a member of U2 before the band had become huge? What if your band were offered the chance to open for U2 after they had already struck it big?
This is the real-life premise of the movie Killing Bono, which follows the story of Neil and Ivan McCormick, and is based on Neil’s book I Was Bono’s Doppleganger. In the extra, however, we are cautioned that the movie is “authentic” without being necessarily “true.”
Neil and Ivan were school pals and rivals of U2 when they were first starting out in a band called The Hype. When we first meet the band, Paul Hewson has just changed his name to Bono and Dave Evans to the Edge and band’s name has been changed to U2. At first, all of their school mates think that all of this sounds ridiculous and make merciless fun of them, but of course we all know that Bono, the Edge, and U2 turned out to be very good name changes indeed. Perhaps we would all be listening to The Hype 30 years later, but Bono wasn’t willing to take that chance.
The movie follows the McCormick brothers through a series of near-misses as they try to find their own sound and continually reinvent themselves through punk, new wave, and pop music, while also following the success of U2. They are always in U2’s shadow, as we see posters go up for Boy, The Unforgettable Fire, and we see Neil throwing darts at the cover of the War album.
Ten years later, after U2 had made it big, Neil’s brother finds out that Bono had wanted him to be the fifth member of U2 just before they are scheduled to play a gig. The show and must go on, and the brothers play out their gig and continue touring for a while until Neil sleeps with the manager’s wife. He then is chased down by a thug who works for a promoter they had previously been involved with. Neil tries desperately to call Bono to get his band booked to open for U2 as they are on tour supporting The Joshua Tree. As usual, there are a series of mishaps and missed opportunities and we see Neil get more and more desperate. Neil tries to talk to Bono at a press conference and gets thrown out, only to miss his brother Ivan as he enters the hotel. Bono recognizes Ivan and he rides with Bono in a limo and the two have a conversation when they talk about old times, how nobody could have known that U2 was going to become so big, saying to Ivan, “we were a pretty shitty band.” Bono tells Ivan that if Ivan were his brother, he wouldn’t have let him join another band either.
Neil and the thug who has been dispatched to extract $13,000 from him for concert dates show up later at U2s concert in Dublin, which their band had actually been invited to play, drunk and with a gun in hand. Obviously, Neil does not kill Bono or any member of U2, although he and his brother have a very funny exchange in the bathroom. Ivan tells Neil that they will be opening for U2 after all. Unfortunately, Machin’s goon kidnaps them both and again, through a series of madcap mishaps, they miss the gig.
The movie features Martin McCann playing Bono. It is tough playing someone who is still alive and that fans can see pretty much any time they want to on DVD or YouTube, but eventually, McCann settles into the role and you do accept him as Bono. He is spot on with the voice and many of Bono’s mannerisms. We really only see the rest of U2 at the beginning of the movie and not much thereafter. The McCormick brothers themselves were in this movie, playing “Sleazy Guy 1” and “2.” Ben Barnes plays Neil and Robert Sheehan plays Ivan McCormick. The soundtrack is classic 1970s and 80s punk and new wave and the club scenes are quite entertaining.
The film is a must-see for any U2 fan, but also for fans of rock and roll movies and people who enjoy 80s music in general. It may be authentically untrue, but it also a fun movie, whether you love or hate Bono.