I'm not a rabid U2 fan so I couldn't really comment on how accurate 'Killing Bono' is when it comes to history. My guess is that, like all "based on a true story" movies, that it's got plenty of revisionist history embedded in it to fill out the screenplay. That said, the movie is based on a 2003 memoir called "Killing Bono: I Was Bono's Doppelganger" written by Neil McCormick.
McCormick, played by Ben Barnes, is the central figure in this story. Even though the movie revolves around one of the biggest rock bands of all time, the movie focuses in on someone left on the outside looking in. Growing up in Ireland, McCormick had a decent mate in Bono (Martin McCann), who at that time was simply known as Paul Hewson. Paul and Neil were both obsessed with starting bands. Paul put together his and Neil assembled one of his own. Before Paul's band "The Hype" took off, he asked Neil if it would be okay if Neil's younger brother joined their band. Without consulting his younger brother Ivan (Robert Sheehan), Neil answered for him and said no. And so began the topsy-turvy life that would be Neil McCormick's - always trying to claw his way out of the shadow of his friend Paul... never succeeding.
Soon, The Hype changed their name to U2, and Paul changed his name to Bono. They got a record deal and shot to the top of the charts. Bono reached out to Neil constantly trying to help him get signed and offering him opportunities to open for them, but Neil always declined. He wanted to do it on his own, the only thing he never thought of was how he was dragging his brother down with him.
The movie's premise might seem a little somber. A doom-and-gloom story about how the music industry simply isn't fair. Yet, there's a lot of humor to be had here. 'Killing Bono' is darkly comedic at times. Its lambasting of the music industry is a little too on the nose. It seems rather obvious how thick they lay it on sometimes. We get it, the music industry and the agents that run it are fickle, prideful people.
Neil's constant self-sabotage gets harder and harder to watch. As he keeps turning down golden opportunity after golden opportunity, I found myself saying, "This can't be real. This must be the 'poetic license,' part of the script." I have no idea how real it gets, but the way the movie portrays it is effective at least.
Neil's an ambitious man whose ambition is counteracted by his swollen ego. Despite so much evidence to the contrary, Neil feels like he is destined to make it big in the world of rock 'n roll. Not only that, he's determined to reach the pinnacle of success that U2 reached, on his own. His bad choices keep rolling out as the movie goes along; everything from cheating on his girlfriend to getting involved with an Irish gangster in hopes of finding funding for his burgeoning music career.
At times the movie feels as smart as 'Almost Famous.' It has that tongue-in-cheek vibe going for it. However, there's another aspect to the movie that feels like it's trying way too hard to be hilarious and not trying hard enough to adhere to what really happened. Cringe-inducing gags, like a scene where the McCormick brothers meet with a crazy London, are amped up for laughs while other facets of the film, like Neil's struggling relationship with his girlfriend Gloria, are completely glossed over.
First and foremost, 'Killing Bono' wants to be a satire about the fickleness of the rock 'n roll industry. It isn't too concerned with providing an accurate representation of historical events unless it advances its own purposes of farcical purposes.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This is an Arc Entertainment release. The movie is housed on a 25GB Blu-ray Disc and is packaged in a standard Blu-ray keepcase. It's coded for Region A use.
'Killing Bono' has a smoothly filmic, detailed look to its 1080p image. The movie's cinematography mirrors the look and feel of the 60s. Much of the picture is extremely detailed, revealing all sorts of details in textures, building facades, and faces.
There is quite a bit of fine detail here. It's easy to see the individual hairs on Neil's face after he grows his mangy beard. Textures, like leather, have a nice, tangible sheen to them. Wool coats have wonderfully resolved textures where it's easy to see the stitching work that went into them. Colors tend to be earthier in nature. Lots of browns and yellows, although Gloria's red lipstick does pop extremely well. The concert scenes feature nicely done visuals. Spotlights swoop around the stage, but there isn't a hint of any sort of technical faux pas like blocking that seem to happen often in these kinds of situations.
If I have one complaint about the video presentation, it's that blacks are frequently flat and gray. In turn they end up crushing out detail in low-lit indoor scenes. There's a scene where Neil walks through a few darkened shadows as he walks down a hallway, and his entire figure becomes obscured in the depthless gray-black shadows. Other than that, the movie looks great on Blu-ray.
Even though the movie features quite a bit of on-stage singing and even more iconic soundtrack listings, it still underwhelms. There is so much music in this movie and the audio mix seems destined to make it all sound relatively the same. It’s a flat presentation all the way across the board and never really embraces the great music it has to work with.
Surrounds are used to engage the concert scenes, and they do work well in those aspects. Lyrics and dialogue come through the center channel clearly. Some of the lyrics boom through the concert speakers and end up bleeding into the rears. However, if it isn't a concert scene, the rear speakers remain silent and disengaged. There aren't nearly enough moments of strong bass as there could be given the songs they're working with. Overall, the mix seemed overly low. I had to turn up my system well above its average settings to get solid sound.
I had fun with 'Killing Bono's wry sense of humor, although I felt that at times its skewering of the music industry was far too obvious for its own good. Still, it's a funny look at what it takes to make it in the music biz and will almost certainly delight fans of U2. The audio situation didn't impress me much, but the video is much better, though. All in all, 'Killing Bono' is definitely worth a rental, but I'm not sure it's worth much more than that.