Nollywood has been praised for its ability to entertain, captivate and portray the harsh realities of life in Nigeria. Films such as King of Boys (2018), 4th republic (2019), Your Excellency (2019) are prime examples of the pervasive corrupt systems within our governance.
Beyond its vibrant characters and captivating plots, Nollywood acts as a potent mirror, illuminating social and political concerns which resonate with viewers both within and outside Nigerian borders. “The Black Book” joins this collection of portrayals, as Editi Effiong’s gripping crime thriller unflinchingly mirrors the deeply-entrenched corruption and constant struggle for justice in an already flawed system.
The story focuses on Paul Edema, portrayed by Richard Mofe-Damijo (RMD) who embarks on a mission of vengeance when his son, (Olumide Oworu), falls victim to a wrongful accusation, and as a front to a much more dark and menacing scheme. Unbeknownst to these corrupt officials, Paul Edema was once a powerful figure in the underworld, but now relinquished that life for a path of forgiveness and faith.
Following the killing of his son, Paul sets on a mission to restore his son’s reputation and expose those behind these corrupt institutions. On this journey, he encounters the tenacious Victoria Kalu (Ade Laoye), a journalist who is determined to uncover this shady world and bring to light the truth. As the plot develops, it paints a vivid picture of politicians who go to great lengths in exploiting their power for personal gain, while also challenging the viewers to face the hard truth and reflect on the devastating effects of systemic corruption.
Editi Effiong succeeds in connecting a tale of a forgotten past and brutal present through a glimpse of Nigeria’s past under military rule and the current reverberations. The Black book explores these atrocities of a dark history under military dictatorship, drug trafficking and politics via a fictional viewpoint.
The film bears a striking resemblance to the action-packed tone of “John Wick (2014)”. It centers on an assassin reverting to his old ways when his loved ones are in danger. Although, parallel to this plot, there is a distinctive Nollywood twist. With a vengeance-seeking theme, the plot is a notable addition to the Nollywood action thriller with its daring and bold take.
However, there are a few flaws as it aimed to kill many birds with one stone. Towards the end, the plot unfolds in a fast-paced manner making it lose precision. Paul shifts his focus from enacting vengeance for his son to looking for the black book where he documented General Issa’s transgressions. While also attempting to protect the daughter of the investigative journalist who he murdered in the past.
Apart from that, it failed in allowing the audience to sympathize with the father-son relationship due to its lack of development. The backstory was rather abrupt leaving a void of emotional connection for the audience.
Traversing beyond, the casting was rather impeccable as it is evident that the selection process was thoughtful. Our main character, Richard Mofe-Damijo delivers a brilliant performance as he combines traits of stoicism and intensity. His ability to convey emotions through action sequences was remarkable as he effectively draws the audience in his quest for vengeance.
Another stellar performance is that of Shaffy Bello who takes on the role of “Big Daddy” with an indescribable grace while commanding the screen with her presence. Her character’s militia, composed of modest Muslim women with exceptional marksmanship skills as they provide a clear message of defying gender stereotypes and emphasizing the notion of female empowerment.
Fast-rising star, Ade Laoye delivers with a refined performance as she carries the audience with her emotions. It was definitely a blend of old and new nollywood with an ensemble of veterans such as Sam Dede, Alex Usifo, Ireti Doyle, Taiwo Ajai-Lycett, Patrick Doyle, Bimbo Akintola, Femi Branch and Omaigbo, to fast rising stars with the likes of Denola Gray, Olumide Oworu and Ade Laoye.
The cinematography of the Black Book successfully compliments the plot and themes. It effectively conveys the emotions and tension in each scene, while showcasing the diversity between its two settings, bolstered by intense action sequences. Set in both Lagos and Kaduna, the dynamic cinematography beautifully portrays the spirits of both cities.
From the busy streets of Lagos to the more tranquil nature of Kaduna, the smooth transitions transport the viewers between these settings further enriching the narrative. The intentional use of colors cannot be missed as it not only adds to the suspense but also immerses the audience into the journey of its characters.
The Black book is a thrilling Nollywood film that inspires its audience to ponder on the social and political state of Nigeria. It ignites the conversation on the importance of filmmaking on social issues by using imaginative storytelling in tackling the harsh realities and unjust system of those in power. The Black book is a must-see. It presents a promising future for Nigerian filmmaking in the world of action cinema.