Steven Silver's drama on the real-life cameramen who documented early-'90s apartheid atrocities and African-on-African violence may be best viewed in terms of what it is not: You can't technically call something a biopic if it skimps on the bio, simply dropping you into the action as photojournalist Greg Marinovich (Phillippe) joins up with fellow combat comrades-in-f-stops. Don't expect much in the way of the group's personal or professional history; though the film is ostensibly about the whole Bang Bang Club quartet, its focus is almost completely on Greg and Kevin Carter (Friday Night Lights' Kitsch, locked in a losing battle with a South African accent)---and even they end up as ciphers. Nor is it the sort of look at African strife through Caucasian eyes that we've come to know and loathe (hello, Cry Freedom!), since the film couldn't care less about the era's political stalemate, treating civil war as merely a backdrop for guys hot-dogging around hot-spot danger zones.
So what do you get? Greg making kissy-face with his editor (Akerman). The most incongruous use of the Velvet Underground's "Pale Blue Eyes" ever. An occasional moral-dilemma handwringer over viewing historical tragedy through a lens darkly, and infrequent stabs at these daredevils' motivations (gallant effort to expose injustice, or dick-measuring contest featuring Pulitzers, bullets and barroom hotties?), before the whys are overwhelmed by the hows and celebratory high-fiving. A single arresting shot of a photographer chasing a man on fire says more about journalistic ethics and the queasy power of the image than all of the speechifying and star-posing combined; if only the rest of this muddled movie had as much insightful Sontagian bang.
Watch the trailer