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Killing Bono (2011)
DVD Released: 1/17/2012
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/21/2012
Most biopics have a specific target, that being the person about which the story is being told. However, some are once removed from that story and focus on those around the subject, showing how this person effected their lives or vice-versa. But, these films rarely go beyond this scope. We don't get to see how a famous or important person had an impact on those who weren't in their immediate circle. Killing Bono takes the idea of a biopic and turns it on its ear, as it tells the story of how one famous person drove and nearly destroyed the life of someone else.
The year is 1977 and brothers Neil (Ben Barnes) and Ivan McCormick (Robert Sheehan) attend high school in Dublin. The dream of forming a band, as do their friends Larry Mullen Jr. (Sean Doyle) and Paul Hewson (Martin McCann). Paul wants Ivan for his band, The Hype, which also includes David Evans (Mark Griffin) and Adam Clayton (David Tudor), but Neil refuses to let his brother go, never informing him of the offer. The Hype and Neil's band, The Undertakers, play a few local gigs together, then, The Hype change their name to U2 and the rest is history. As U2 grow in popularity and become a worldwide phenomenon, Neil and Ivan struggle to make it. Moving to London, they put together a new band, called Shook Up, and try to get a record deal. Neil starts a relationship with their neighbor, Gloria (Krysten Ritter), and she becomes their manager. Success is within their grasp several times, but Neil always allows his pride to overtake logic.
Years ago, even before I began reviewing DVDs, I stated that it should be a rule, nay, a law, that any movie based on a true story must contain a feature on the DVD/Blu-ray Disc release which lets us know which parts are true. Aren't you like me? Don't you find yourself saying, "Is that true?" to the screen. In a perfect world, each of these films would contain a "Pop-up Video" like device which would come on-screen and simply say, "This is true." Why am I bringing up all of this? Because Killing Bono is sorely in need of such a feature. The film contains so many seemingly absurd moments and connections to memorable real-life events that the viewer can't help but say, "Is that true?" The McCormick's get into so many odd situations and Neil makes so many bad decisions that the movie becomes somewhat surreal at times and we are left to wonder which parts are real. Also, it's never clear if the songs which Shook Up are playing are their actual songs. (Judging by the end credits, they are not.) (The movie is based on the book of the same name by Neil McCormick, which I have not read. I did see a note on-line that the plot-point in the film where Neil turns down the invitation for Ivan to join U2 is not true.)
That issue aside, and it is a big issue, Killing Bono is still an enjoyable rock 'n roll movie. Again, the story focuses on the McCormick's especially Neil, but U2 is always lurking on the periphery, acting as a motivator for Neil. The movie could essentially be the story of any garage band (as they literally play in a garaage), as Neil recruits a band and they then go through several stages in an attempt to be a success. We watch the band change both musical and clothing styles and deal with the less glamorous side of the rock, such as loving in a barren apartment and eating beans. In a unique move, passing time in the movie is marked by the release of new U2 albums from Boy to The Joshua Tree.
The most interesting part of the story, and the thing which keeps the movie moving, are Neil's decisions. His desire to make the band success often falls victim to his own pride as he makes deals with mobsters and turns down lucrative offers if they aren't exactly what he wants. These moments go from "Is this true?" to "Would someone really do that?" Another intriguing part of Killing Bono is the portrayal of Bono himself. The movie shows him to be a truly nice person who kept in touch with his schoolmates and offered to help them out at times.
Along with the reality questions, Killing Bono also suffers from a bit of rock 'n roll excess, as it runs too long. The editing could have easily been tightened up to make things flow more smoothly. The point of the movie is to show that Neil keeps messing up, but seeing this over and over does make the movie feel redundant. Still, as a former U2 fan (I won't get into that now), the movie offers a glimpse into the band's origin and how their fame effected those around them.
Killing Bono never comments on the fact that Shook Up's music keeps sounding more and more like U2 on DVD courtesy of Arc Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing only trace amounts of grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look good, most notably reds and blues. The image is a bit dark, but this doesn't diminish the colors or hide any of the action. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogues and sound effects. First and foremost, the music hear sounds very good. The music is nicely spread through the speakers and the subwoofer effects are palpable. There are some minor dynamic range issues here as the music is much louder than the other effects, but it still sounds fine.
The Killing Bono DVD contains only two extras. "An In-depth Look at the Making of Killing Bono" (23 minutes) offers a nice amount of behind-the-scenes footage and comments from the cast and filmmakers. We also get vague comments from the real McCormick brothers, but they don't give us much information as to the reality of the film. Director Nick Hamm states that this isn't a true story, but obviously, some of it is. I just wish that we knew which parts. The other extra is the THEATRICAL TRAILER for the movie.
Review Copyright 2012 by Mike Long