Originally Posted: 5/2/2011
Updated: 8/16/2011 (Released to DVD)
“The Bang Bang Club” made it’s United States premiere last week at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. It’s currently experiencing a limited run in select cities nationwide.
The name comes from a real-life group of four young, white male photographers working in South Africa during the final years under apartheid. They had been dubbed “The Bang Bang Club” by the locals for their extensive coverage of violence in the region.
With the story based on true events, “The Bang Bang Club” tries it’s best to remain historically accurate. One of the photographers, Greg Marinovich (who’s played on-screen by Ryan Phillippe), worked as a consultant during production to help with the story.
This film bored the shit out of me. Something major gets lost in translation. Though it appears to be trying to make a statement, the film lacks the necessary character development to make an audience care. There are about 1,000 questions raised during the film, and even now as I write this, I do not know any of the answers.
Apartheid acts as the backdrop, but I know less about the topic today than I knew before my viewing. Director Steven Silver instead decides to focus on the personalities of the photographers, and it turns out to be the wrong move. They are young, good-looking, and party a lot. They all meet hot women. They run camera-first into gun battles and appear to have no fear. They are almost universally accepted by the combatants, and they seem excluded from the action. During a particularly tense battle near the climax of the film, one of the men runs through a hail of bullets to purchase a couple Coca-Colas. This scene just irritated me and proves their stupidity. Doesn’t ANYONE fear death?!
Ultimately, one of these men dies, and one commits suicide. These aren’t spoilers, but rather well-publicized historical events. “The Bang Bang Club” fails to get below the surface and help me understand their actions. Instead, I just see entitled white guys running around taking pictures, openly accepted by the primarily black fighters who are trying to kill each other. Yeah, right. It just doesn’t add up.