By Michael Edwards
How did it come to this? That’s the question Neil McCormick (Ben
Barnes) found himself asking as he stood bedraggled, gun in hand, in
front of pop megastar and former schoolmate Bono. It’s also the question
you will probably be asking as you reach the climax of this ham-fisted
adaptation of music journo Neil McCormick’s memoirs directed,
ironically, by Nick Hamm.
We join Neil in his school days, at the conception point of two new bands no less. His brother Ivan (Robert Sheehan) has just auditioned to be the guitarist in a group fronted by Paul Hewson (Martin McCann).
A group which would later be known as U2, fronted by a man soon to be
called Bono. He has been accepted too, but this is a fact he is destined
not to find out as jealous brother Neil demands Paul reject Ivan so
that the McCormick brothers can form their own act. So begins a
never-ending game of catch-up that sees the McCormick brothers
desperately trying to make it, and escape the shadow of their childhood
The book, by all accounts, is an amusing selection of memoirs of how a
group destined for greatness always seemed to pip McCormick to the
post, a collection of Bono-related anecdotes interspersed with some
personal insights from the soon-to-be journalist. Unfortunately, none of
this has been translated to the big-screen adaptation.
Instead, the army of writers adapting McCormick’s work twist it into
some sort of manic family drama that desperately wants to be ‘Withnail
and I’. As the McCormick brothers set out to find their fame and fortune
they are funded by an awkward, shoehorned-in gangster type who exists
solely to inject drama into a rags-to-rags story that never gets off the
ground. Worse still, as they bumble around haplessly seeking a record
deal they encounter a range of ‘zany characters’ (not least poor old
Pete Postlethwaite in his final role) who each make equally futile
attempts to jazz up the hollow characters’ journey.
The sad thing is that if the writers had chosen to focus on the
brothers’ relationship, its development, and its destruction and
redemption at the unwitting hands of Bono, this could have been an
interesting film. Instead, these elements are horribly diluted almost to
non-existence. They are also butchered by some bizarre decisions by
director Nick Hamm, who seems to have instructed Ben Barnes to take
acting lessons from the ‘Thunderbirds’ cast and Robert Sheehan to snort
cocaine and pretend he’s a frightened rabbit. The result is baffling.
Never believable, rarely funny and almost always incongruent with the
tone the film is supposed to portray.
Even basic elements of this film are gotten horribly wrong. Neil
wanders off in a drunken rage, only to return, shiny as a button and
none-the-worse for wear, and have Ivan declare ‘Have you been drinking?
Have you been out all night?’ You’d think make-up, wardrobe or even
continuity departments would have spotted basic problems like this. But
then perhaps they cared as little as you might about this humdrum, forced and unfunny tale of woe.