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Marina Antunes [Film Festival 12.09.10] movie review news drama

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Year: 2010
Director: Steven Silver
Writer: Steven Silver
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Marina Antunes
Rating: 6 out of 10

Not everyone’s cut out to be a combat journalist. You have to be an adrenaline junkie, a little crazy and willing to put your life on the line to get that amazing photograph.

South Africa. Early 90s. Nelson Mandela is free and the end of Apartheid seems near. Violence is everywhere as are the reporters and photographers, all vying to capture the violence on film and share it with the rest of the world. A group of photographers, referred to as The Bang Bang Club, are particularly fearless, capturing the shots that often grace international papers as well as local publications. The group is fiercely competitive but also loyal and between the four of them, they provided some of the most striking images to come out of the country during that time.


Steven Silver’s film The Bang Bang Club, adapted from Greg Marinovich and João Silva’s accounts of the period, had the potential to be a fantastic film. It’s a great premise with promises of emotional depth, striking visuals and lots of action but it falls flat on nearly all accounts. The problem? A combination of bad writing and weak performances.

Rather than focusing the film solely on the photographers and their experiences, Silver chooses to focus mostly on Greg Marinovich and his life during that period, including his relationship with photo editor Robin Comley. The film starts off well enough with Greg meeting the gang (Kevin, Ken and João) and essentially forcing his way into their group with his determination to do anything necessary to get the shot. The opening 15 minutes of the film are fantastic but as soon as Greg and the gang return to the city, the energy drains from the screen and it only gets worse as the film spends more time with Greg and Robin rather than in the field or with the other photographers.

It doesn’t help that the roles of Greg and Robin, the two individuals at the centre of this story, are filled by two bland performers. Ryan Phillippe has been known to deliver a few great performances but this isn’t one of them and while he and Malin Akerman are a pretty pair, they have zero chemistry and the fact that they spend so much time playing off of each other doesn’t help. It’s boring. Thankfully, we do get the occasional reprise and the trio that makes up the rest of the so called Bang Bang Club steal every scene. Of particular note are Frank Rautenbach, a relative new comer who plays the role of Ken, the group’s leader and Taylor Kitsch who leaves behind his staff and cards for a charismatic photographer with a drug problem.

Though not a complete dud, The Bang Bang Club is a missed opportunity, a story with great potential squandered away for what appears to be mainstream appeal with the focus on Greg and Robin’s relationship. It’s too bad because the film manages to recreate some of the award winning, jaw droppingly violent pictures with great accuracy not to mention it’s beautifully shot and features a few scene stealing performances from the supporting cast.

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