An emphatic little actioner straining toward moral gravity, “The Bang Bang Club” frames four young combat photographers as heroes in the South African civil strife after the 1990 release of Nelson Mandela from prison and the end of apartheid. The four real-life photojournalists were Greg Marinovich, Joao Silva, Kevin Carter and Ken Oosterbroek; the Pulitzer Prize-winning Marinovich and Silva’s memoir, “The Bang-Bang Club: Snapshots from a Hidden War” provides source material and the unfortunate title. Writer-director Steven Silver’s jittery adaptation fronts familiar notions about journalistic responsibility and moral ambiguity with appealing urgency. (Silver had been a student in Johannesburg.) There are documentaries of note like Christian Frei’s 2001 “War Photographer,” about the compulsive and gifted James Nachtwey that better capture the mercurial personalities of men photographing men and boys at war, but “Bang Bang” is relatively diverting melodrama, and with a little sex. “You’re a fuckin’ troublemaker, you know that,” a female photo editor tells a photographer in a clinch, “I don’t date photographers, you keep terrible hours, you drink too much, and you’re crazy.” A kiss and kiss to the neck and the nape, then “And there’s some bad stuff, too.” It’s not “Under Fire” or “Salvador,” but it’s not half-bad. With Ryan Phillippe, Taylor Kitsch, Ashley Mulheron, Frank Rautenbach, Malin Åkerman, Russel Savadier, Neels Van Jaarsveld. 93m. (Ray Pride)
“The Bang Bang Club” opens Friday, April 22 at the Music Box.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His multimedia history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” will be published later this year.