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The Bang Bang Club (2010)

7.0
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Ratings: 7.0/10 from 6,567 users   Metascore: 48/100
Reviews: 23 user | 75 critic | 15 from Metacritic.com

A drama based on the true-life experiences of four combat photographers capturing the final days of apartheid in South Africa.

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
...
Neels Van Jaarsveld ...
...
Ken Oosterbroek
Nina Milner ...
Samantha
Jessica Haines ...
Allie
Russel Savadier ...
Lika Berning ...
Vivian (as Lika van den Bergh)
Kgosi Mongake ...
Patrick
Patrick Shai ...
Pegleg
Alfred Kumalo ...
Alf Khumalo (as Alf Khumalo)
Craig Palm ...
Amir
...
Colin
...
Jim (James Nachtwey)
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Storyline

A drama based on the true-life experiences of four combat photographers capturing the final days of apartheid in South Africa.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

It's not always black and white See more »

Genres:

Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong brutal violence, disturbing images, pervasive language, some drug use and sexual content | See all certifications »

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 »
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Details

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Release Date:

22 July 2011 (South Africa)  »

Also Known As:

Fotógrafos de la muerte  »

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Did You Know?

Trivia

Kevin Carter's daughter Megan Carter is featured in the bar scene where she turns around and says 'you must be Ken Oosterbroek'. Standing next to her there is Kevin Carter's step daughter Sian Lloyd. See more »

Goofs

In the film Kevin Carter plays the song "Just" by Radiohead on his radio show. However the song was released in 1995 after Kevin's death. See more »

Quotes

Kevin Carter: They're right. All those people who say it's our job to just sit and watch people die. They're right.
See more »

Connections

Featured in Ebert Presents: At the Movies: Episode #1.14 (2011) See more »

Soundtracks

Haircut
By Urban Creep
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User Reviews

 
Shallow drama that shortchanges good material
13 February 2013 | by (Gainesville, Florida) – See all my reviews

The "Bang-Bang Club" was a moniker given to a group of primarily four South African photographers who gained notoriety for consistently putting themselves in harm's way to obtain photographs of the "silent war" between the African National Congress (ANC) and the Inkatha that raged from 1990 to 1994, leading up to the first free elections in South Africa that resulted in Nelson Mandela becoming President. The Bang Bang Club is a film version of those years, focusing on the primary members of this group, Greg Marinovich, Kevin Carter, Ken Oosterbroek and Joao Silva. Unfortunately, after watching The Bang Bang Club, the viewer will walk away from the film with a small degree of empathy for some of the people caught in the conflict, but mostly boredom and apathy towards the photographers as The Bang Bang Club fails to tell a compelling and involving story.

As the film opens, we are introduced to Greg (Ryan Phillippe), a freelance photographer who shows up at a skirmish between the ANC and Inkatha where Kevin (Taylor Kitsch), Ken (Frank Rautenbach) and Joao (Neels Van Jaarsveld) are already in the midst of the action. Greg enters a nearby village, considered a foolhardy move by the other photographers, and manages to get some good photos and talks with the Inkatha warriors. Visiting the local newspaper, The Star, Greg impresses the others with this feat of daring and also manages to catch the eye of the photo editor of the paper, Robin (Malin Akerman). Greg starts joining the others as they go out each day, hoping to find action to photograph, constantly embroiling themselves in harrowing circumstances, surrounded by gunfire and potential bodily harm as the two warring sides face off. In the evenings, the members of the "Bang- Bang Club" drown their adrenaline in drink and engage in trysts with women. However, as the conflict carries on over the years, the members of the Club are finding themselves becoming more detached and desensitized to the ongoing stream of violence and this also leads to breakdowns in their relationships with others who aren't there to witness the acts that they face daily.

The Bang Bang Club deals in some heady material: the waning days of apartheid in South Africa, and how one side, the Inkatha, had a different, more complicated point of view of the situation in the country than the simple argument of wrong vs right. When The Bang Bang Club addresses these issues, it manages to provide some stimulating moments. However, the problem is that, for the most part, The Bang Bang Club doesn't direct its attention on those aspects of the story. Instead, it largely focuses on the photographers who make up the Bang Bang Club and that proves to be very shallow, conventional material too often. There is the potential of a terrific movie in the story of these men jumping into the fight to documenting it, but what is on display here falls short of delivering a powerful story.

The Bang Bang Club puts Marinovich and Carter at the forefront of the narrative, with Oosterbroek and Silva largely in the background as supporting characters, but the film fails to make any of these men tremendously interesting. We see them dodging bullets on the battlefield, but there isn't any significant depth to them. They shoot photos, they drink, they sleep with women, and for much of the running time, that is about it. The only romantic relationship that gets any significant screen time is the one between Marinovich and Robin, but it is lacking in any interest or passion. There is no chemistry between the two, they get together because the screenplay wants them to, not because we feel any attraction between the two. An element of the plot that is given some exploration is the idea that these men are losing their humanity to the constant chase of the next great shot, and in one scene, in which Marinovich is called to a man's home after his wife and son have been killed by police officials to document the events does give a strong emotional undercurrent to how Marinovich has put aside his involvement in the events around him to make sure the photos are good. However, another scene in which Carter is confronted by journalists after a photo he took of a vulture stalking a small child outside a feeding station wins a Pulitzer Prize comes across as forced and obvious. Carter tries to answer questions about why he only took the photo and not help the child, and it is a considerable issue to confront, but it is handled in such a manipulative way that the scene loses its power.

Phillipe and Kitsch, in the roles of Marinovich and Carter, are both OK in their parts, but neither are delivering stellar work. Of the two, Kitsch receives a juicier role as Carter, who is the more psychologically unstable of them, and at times manages to tap into some of the mental anguish that Carter experiences, but still, he proves a limited character. Phillipe does a good job of showing us how detached Marinovich is from the basic human emotions being stirred by those around him as he focuses on getting the right framing or lighting, but Marinovich is still often a blank slate. Akerman gets the thankless role of love interest, as the film doesn't give her much depth beyond that. She's easy on the eyes, but there isn't a lot for her to do.

The Bang Bang Club was directed by Steven Silver, who has a background in documentary filmmaking, and it shows at times. Many of the scenes are filmed in a hand-held "you are there" style which can make the audience feel it is part of the proceedings, but style isn't really The Bang Bang Club's problems. It's inability to make these men's situation involving and to not give the greater conflict its due at times is ultimately The Bang Bang Club's undoing.


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