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With: Ryan Phillippe, Malin Akerman, Taylor Kitsch, Frank Rautenbach, Neels Van Jaarsveld, Patrick Lyster, Russel Savadier
Written by: Steven Silver
Directed by: Steven Silver
MPAA Rating: R for strong brutal violence, disturbing images, pervasive language, some drug use and sexual content
Running Time: 106
Date: 09/15/2010

The Bang Bang Club (2011)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Bang Bang Shoot Shoot

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Documentary filmmaker Steven Silver makes his feature debut with this film, based on a true story. He re-creates the tumultuous events of 1990-1994 in South Africa and imagines how it must have been for the four real-life photographers to take their memorable and award-winning shots. Some of the movie's sequences contain real power. However, the bulk of the movie is complicated and unbalanced, spending too much time on certain issues and dodging others entirely.

In South Africa in 1990, freelance photojournalist Greg Marinovich (Ryan Phillippe) walks into the dangerous Nancefield Workers Hostel in Soweto and emerges alive, with pictures. He thereby wins the respect of his colleagues, and lands a contract with the local, white-run paper The Star. Greg and three other photographers, Kevin Carter (Taylor Kitsch), Ken Oosterbroek (Frank Rautenbach), and João Silva (Neels Van Jaarsveld) form the so-called "bang bang club," wherein they rush into danger to photograph the violent events surrounding the end of apartheid and the fights involving the Inkatha movement and the African National Congress. Both Marinovich and Carter win Pulitzer prizes, but have they really helped the people they're photographing?

Silver tries to paint the men as heroes and friends, but moral issues cloud their heroism, and lack of strong character development muddles the rest (the more bankable stars Ryan Phillippe and Taylor Kitsch get most of the screen time). Moreover, the political climate isn't adequately explored or explained. It's an ambitious film, but has probably bitten off more than it can chew.

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