Reviewer: Esosa Omo-Usoh
A crime lord wanting to go legit or seeking political power is a fairly common theme in movie lore. It has been the theme of many Hollywood movies cutting across genres as diverse as drama and comedy.
For drama, Francis Ford Coppola’s the Godfather movies is unarguably, its most notable example. In comedy, my favourite example would be the largely panned (but, in my view, deliciously hilarious) John Landis-directed Sylvester Stallone comedy, “Oscar”.
So, when a former music video director whose debut Nollywood movie birthed the very commercially successful “The Wedding Party” chooses this theme for her next movie, you sit up to see how it all pans out.
“King of Boys” opens with a typical Lagos high society party celebrating the titular king’s birthday. This scene was chuck full of the usual; celeb cameos, the host walk-around greeting guests and the guest making snide comments about the host. Here, we are introduced to Lagos crime kingpin, Eniola Salami (Sola Sobowale) and her daughter and sidekick, Kemi (Adesua Etomi).
As the movie title suggests, Eniola is the Kingpin of crime lords in Lagos, and together with her rectangular table of crime lords, they constitute the underworld shot callers in Lagos. Only that, save for Eniola and would-be usurper crime lord, Makanaki (played by rapper, Reminisce), the other crime lords look more like an assemblage of clownish characters put together for a music video parody gangster scene shoot.
As it turns out, Eniola has offered patronage to the political shot callers long enough to now want a seat at the table in the form of a political appointment. Her birthday party where the Governor puts in an appearance was more of a coming out party for her or so she thought.
She soon learns that although like crime, politics is a dirty game; its dirt is quite different from that of the crime world. The stain of a life of a crime is not something even dirty politicians want to be associated with in the open.
But getting shafted in her political expectations is not all Eniola has to deal with. In her home turf, even more disrespect and challenge for her throne as the King of Boys comes in the form of Makanaki, a subordinate crime lord with aspirations for the big league.
With all these variables in place, Director, Kemi Adetiba proceeds to unfurl her almost 3-hour long story of crime world power struggle for supremacy with storytelling devices of flashbacks and scene shots set up like she was shooting a music video complete with slo mo and artificial smoke.
For originality of story (or more appropriately, for going against the grain of Nollywood choice of story), Adetiba gets praise (not high praise). But the story/script could have done with more depth than it had. Its treatment of the themes of corruption, political power play, crime investigation and even the legal/judicial process betrayed an obvious lack of depth and came across as rather pedestrian.
On technique and the technicality of the production, Adetiba’s style was very suggestive of a fresh film school graduate shooting a feature length movie using the music video shoot playbook. This was a big letdown for me. The seriousness of the movie’s theme did not call for seeming experimentation in technique.
First off, the sound quality was horrendous. I don’t know whether to blame it on the movie or the acoustics of the cinema. But the movie’s sound lacked a surround ambiance. It hit you straight from the screen-side speakers with such loud forcefulness, it sounded like an aural assault made even more jarring in scenes when characters (notably, Sobowale’s Eniola) appeared to shout rather than speak their lines.
The used of artificial smoke and contrived stylistic camera shots and angles in some scenes (an apparent homage to Adetiba’s music video background) detracted from rather than enhanced the movie, in my view.
And the movie was needlessly long. Some scenes dragged on forever especially the rescue from jail scene and Eniola’s mourning scene where it seemed Adetiba went to sleep and let Sobowale go ham on over-dramatizing her bereavement.
In keeping with Nollywood’s penchant for non-researching of legal/court room scenes, Adetiba continued the tradition. In the court scene for the ruling on Eniola’s bail application, both counsel and judge appeared improperly dressed.
Judges and lawyers usually put on a jacket over their shirts before throwing on their gowns. In the movie, they appeared sans jackets with their gowns thrown over their shirts. And Etomi’s Kemi appeared in court wearing a male lawyer’s bib over her blouse instead of a female lawyer’s collarette.
Of course there were avoidable mistakes in details that should not have happened if painstaking attention had been deployed.
In the opening party scene, we were introduced to Chief Onikoyi as the Governor of Lagos State. However, in the NCCC office scene where Kemi tries to see Eniola after her arrest, on the wall of the office, there was a picture of Governor Ambode next to President Buhari’s suggesting the former was Governor of Lagos State.
At the post-bail ruling scene outside the court room, an assassination attempt goes awry and when the commotion clears, we see blood stains on the victim’s shirt but no tear/burn marks on the shirt where the bullet went in.
Some continuity gaffes can be observed in the jail rescue scene. When Gobir (Paul Sambo) rescues Eniola from her cell, his shirt is soaking wet and stained with soot from the fire. But when he is talking with another security operative by the ambulance, the shirt is all dried and appears whiter and less stained with soot. Then in his car with Eniola, the shirt is all stained worse than it was in the immediate preceding scene.
Performance wise, a trio stands out. Sola Sobowale as Eniola was impressive albeit ( as she is always wont to do) she goes overboard with her histrionics. Sobowale is already blessed with an undeniable screen presence and facial expressions that, when deployed masterfully, will emote more passion and eloquence than verbalized histrionics. She needs to learn the power of subtlety and holding back.
Reminisce as Makanaki was impressive but could have brought more oomph to his performance had he been given sufficient dialogue and screen time to make an even more impressive impact than he did.
Toni Tones as a younger Eniola was a dead ringer for Sobowale’s older Eniola give their resemblance in looks sans the obvious difference in complexion. Her performance made you believe how she could have grown to be Sobowale’s older Eniola.
But by far (in my opinion), the best scene in King of Boys was the end scene. Adetiba discharged herself creditably here. It excused (albeit a little bit) the movie’s needlessly prolonged running time and rescued the impressive bits of the movie that would have been marred by it for that reason.
It showcased what Sobowale can achieve with more restraint in her acting, and that final shot of her mischievous smile at the camera breaking the fourth wall is an impressive testament of the eloquence of her facial expression.
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