"Killing Bono" whips up a frenzied mix of musical jealousy, wishful stardom and farcical lucklessness into a movie too slippery to hold onto. Inspired by the memoir of Irish music journalist Neil McCormick, who as an aspiring musician watched his schoolmates become U2 while he toiled away in failing bands, the movie grafts onto Neil's story the dramatic notion that he prevented his guitar-playing brother Ivan from being part of the original U2 lineup in order to keep the sibs together.
That familial twist of fate is heartbreaking enough without screenwriters Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais (who penned the much-better band saga "The Commitments") piling on rock-'n'-roll clichés. It doesn't help matters that director Nick Hamm subscribes to the over-excitedly gestural school of guiding actors, which saps any potential loser charm from leads Ben Barnes (as Neil) and Robert Sheehan (Ivan) and instead makes them seem like spinning tops.
The quiet marvel, though, is Martin McCann's portrayal of Paul/Bono, which only confirms how much suggestion trumps imitation when playing a familiar icon.
"Killing Bono." MPAA rating: R for pervasive language, some sexuality/nudity and drug use. Running time: 1 hour, 54 minutes. At Laemmle's Sunset 5, West Hollywood and Laemmle's Town Center 5, Encino.