Directed and Screenplay by: Steven Silver
Cinematography by: Miroslaw Baszak
Starring: Ryan Philippe, Taylor Kitsch
The Bang Bang Club had all the potential to be an epic story-telling of the fascinating and insightful group of combat photographers during the dying days of Apartheid. It is this potential which deals the film its heaviest blow. The film is not the worst produced film to come out of South Africa – or Hollywood for that matter – but the very nature of the story is made to look cheapened and short changed by overall poor writing and directing.
Unfortunately for Steven Silver, he has no-one to blame but himself. The writer director failed to bring the most out of the story of the four courageous combat photographers who would stop at nothing to tell the story of the violence between the ANC and Inkhata Freedom fighters. To begin with, the performances were average at best. Ryan Philippe did the better of the two North American actors with his accent being bearable. The same can’t be said for Taylor Kitsch however who was simply woeful. He was brilliant as Tim Riggins in Friday Night Lights but in this film I felt as though he was the same troubled and intoxicated teenager. His accent was on another level of atrocious. Forced and without subtlety it was excruciating to listen to. This leads me to one of my biggest issues with the film. Why on earth did Steven Silver allow every one of his male actors to say the word, “china” or “bru” after every sentence, regardless of whom they are speaking to? This baffled me to the point of anger. You don’t have to spend more than a day in this country to realize that we don’t say ‘my chinas’ and ‘Ja, howzit bru’ to everyone we encounter. The worst part of it all is you can’t forgive Steven Silver for being a foreigner – he’s a flippin local!
The major flaw with this film is the flow of the narrative. There isn’t an overall story that is resolved at the end. One moment you’re in what feels like the middle of the story (which hasn’t developed, only progressed) and the next moment the whole thing is wrapping up. The first half is exciting but then you start to realize it’s not going anywhere other than following the events of lives of the photographers. This story was crying out for so much more; four friends caught amidst the violence and turbulence of a dying regime, capturing the crimes of humanity before their very eyes, and yet it just fizzles out with very little resolve.
Another gripe I had whilst watching was with the wardrobe department. Someone needs to find a new job. Who thought to put Kevin Carter in skinny jeans for the entire length of the film. It’s 1994 people! Furthermore, Robin Compley’s outfit looked as if it came off someone’s Pinterest board, skinny jeans, flowing tops and braided hair. What a disaster.
Having said all this, there was something which blew me away, the cinematography. Miroslaw Baszak did a tremendous job. The shots were beautiful and the colouring magical. From start to finish, the film ‘looked’ great. The perspectives were interesting and the addition of ‘point-of-view’ type shots added to the tension, especially during the initial foot chase through the Sowetan hostel.
Unfortunately it wasn’t enough to lift the film from the ashes. Overall I was entertained, which I guess is something to give the film credit for, but this story needed a Scorsese or Soderbergh in the directors chair and a Aaron Sorkin to really bring it to life.
Plot development: 6/10
Quality Rating: 63%
Entertainment Rating: 70%