Director: Funke Akindele and JJC Skillz
Year of release: December 2020
Lead cast: Funke Akindele, Bimbo Thomas, Eniola Badmus, and Chioma Akpota.
Funke Akindele’s ‘Omo Ghetto: The Saga’ is not what it has been marketed to be, it is more.
The film, co-directed by Akindele and her husband, JJC Skillz, was crafted to become a blockbuster. It has all the elements needed to make it succeed at the box office.
The nostalgia of a sequel to a classic, an impressive cast, topnotch production, and most importantly, a familiar but compelling story. It is no wonder that it has been named the highest-grossing Nollywood movie of all time after raking in more than N468 million at the box office in one month.
The film, a follow-up to Omo Ghetto (2010), builds upon the previous storyline which involves a twin with contrasting lifestyles.
One is refined, educated, and sophisticated. She delivers motivational speeches to young girls with finesse. The other is the Queen of the Ghetto and the leader of the Askamaya Bees. Apparently, she gives speeches too, that too with braggadocio.
In ‘Omo Ghetto: The Saga’, Lefty is the hero. She goes about helping the less privileged.
She would destroy drugs found on a young boy because he was too young to be peddling drugs even after protecting him from the police. She is that heroic but her adopted mother, her twin sister, and beau, Femi Stone, a yahoo-boy beautifully played by Deyemi Okanlawon, are her weaknesses.
This storyline is not entirely different. As a producer and an actor, Akindele has been there before.
Lefty, which was played by her, has not significantly changed since 2010 when Omo Ghetto 1 was released. However, the environment that the movie is set in, the ghetto, has evolved. Not much outside of itself but more within itself.
Petty thieves and pickpockets have grown into bigger criminals as internet fraudsters. The raucousness is such that the subtle mentioned of ‘popo’, the ghetto’s way of saying police gets everyone running helter-skelter.
As directors, Funke Akindele and JJC Skills thrust you into the storyline from the very first scene of the film, which involves a chase sequence in Askamaya where the film is set in.
With aerial and wide-angle shots, the Director of Photography, John Hemps, in the first few scenes of the film, captures the setup of Askamaya with its characteristic rustiness as a Ghetto. The gaze of his camera falls on Funke Akindele as Lefty who pitches herself at the centre of the film with subtle notoriety.
The first half of the film might bore you because the introduction and establishment of each of the characters stretch for too long. The screenplay was almost a turn-off because of the usual need for comic relief in a Nollywood film. You cannot help it in a film like this.
It is thrilling to watch, not forced but only overplayed. However, you will be jolted into the reality of the film the moment it starts to establish the nexus between gangsterism, hedonism, drugs, prostitution, internet fraud, corruption in the the police force, and how they co-exist in the slums.
There’s also the depiction of intense loyalty that comes with running a circle like this. You see it in Lefty’s gang, the Askamaya Bees comprising of the Chioma Akpotha as Chomichoko, Bimbo Thomas as Nicky, and Eniola Badmus as Busty.
You can also feel it among Deyemi Okanlawon’s circle of co-fraudsters, Alex Ekubo as Obi Wire, Akah Nnani as Mario and Zubby Micheal who perfectly captures the belligerence of Azaman as the right-hand to Deyemi Okanlawon’s Stone.
The scene of the grandstanding he had with Chomichoko after Stone announced his breakup with Lefty is so delightful to watch.
This is one of the highpoints of the film. As central as Okanlawon and Funke Akindele’s characters are, they do not outshine the rest of the cast.
The film is star-studded and this could be a turn-off for a lot of people, no thanks to Nollywood’s penchant for wasting screenplay in a bid to justify the star-cast like Samuel Olatunji did in ‘Dear Affy’. Even Timini Egbuson, who featured in just about two scenes in the film, had his moments.
Meanwhile, whether as the gangster Lefty (Shalewa) or as the more cultured, Ayomide, Akindele will blow your mind. She particularly expends a lot more of her acting prowess in bringing Lefty’s character to life and reflecting the human side of the gangster on celluloid.
Lefty’s longing for her sister when she was kidnapped screams class. Her concern for the safety of the team who came to help her in the rescue of the twin sister reflects a character that is emotional yet rascally. That emotion tugs at your heart and makes you feel for her till the end of the film.
If anything, ‘Omo Ghetto: The Saga’ is an ode to gangsterism in the slums. It celebrates ruggedness and being street. It does not criminalise it; more so because its lead character has self-righteousness at her core and has a father who, himself, is rooted in the street.
He is called ‘Baba oni Baba’ and played by the legendary Adebayo Salami. Interestingly, Salami reprised his role in the first instalment a decade ago.
The fight sequence at the climax of the film is fun to watch. It is better than most that we have seen in recent times, including the silly one in AY Makun’s ‘Merry Men 2: Another Mission’.
However, it takes more than whizzing punches and WWE-style jumps with an incoherent background score to create a fighting sequence. It could have been better choreographed.
Nonetheless, Akindele’s versatility has really never been disputed in the Nigerian film industry. You could only add that it has grown in bounds over the past few years. From pulling off the silliest scenes in home videos and graduating onto the big screens, then marking her directorial presence on ‘Your Excellency’, Akindele, you would think she has done it all.
However, with Omo Ghetto: The Saga, she revealed another layer of herself in more ways than one. Akindele produced the movie, co-directed it, and also acted extremely contrasting dual roles in the same film. Not many of her peers can pull these off. And in, Omo Ghetto: The Saga, she won it all.
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