• Thursday, May 23, 2024
businessday logo


Black Book: Nigerian crime thriller funded by tech titans, takes netflix by storm

Netflix action thriller `The Black Book’ is global winner for Nigeria

In the world of filmmaking, some projects rise from humble beginnings to achieve extraordinary feats. “The Black Book,” directed by Editi Effiong, is one such cinematic journey that defies expectations and breaks new ground in Nollywood. With a budget of $1 million USD and nearly four years in the making, this action-packed thriller has taken the world by storm since its release in September 2023.

You will permit me to say that the Nigerian movie industry is consistently raising the bar with each new endeavour, pushing its own boundaries beyond measure. Although the action scene kind of movies haven’t really been our forte in the past years, our movie directors and producers are taking it a step further with each new movie, from “The King of the Boys” to “Dark October” and “Shanty Town.”

For those of you who read my review on a weekly basis, you would agree I have a penchant for quality cinema and that consists of a lot of things, paying attention to details, good cast, a well written script, to a nice cinematography, proper editing and effects especially for an action packed movie, to my most important ingredient the story, what is there in a good movie without a perfect original storyline, that for me is the icing on the cake, to either break or make the movie.

Enter “The Black Book,” a groundbreaking film backed by Netflix that thrusts director Editi Effiong into the spotlight. Editi’s impressive track record, with works such as “Fishbone,” “Up North,” and “The Set Up,” attests to his unwavering commitment to originality and excellence. Remarkably, within just one week of its release, the film soared to claim the coveted title of Netflix’s number one streamed movie globally.

Read also: Black Book: Why Nigerian tech ‘money bags’ were funding first choice

Now, let’s delve into the movie itself. I was thrilled to see the legendary Richard Mofe Damijo (RMD) grace the screen.
RMD portrays a grieving pastor in the film, grappling with the loss of his wife and hoping for his son’s return to faith. Unfotunately, tragedy struck when he lost his son due to mistaken identity, setting the stage for a riveting plot.
“The Black Book” was shot in two distinct Nigerian states, Lagos and Kaduna, showcasing the nation’s rich culture and vast landscapes, the A-list actors delivered stellar performances, leaving no stone unturned, the cinematography and editing were top-notch, making it easy to draw comparisons between Nollywood and international cinema.
However, I’ll let you be the judge of this remarkable new film. Here are my personal highlights and observations, acknowledging that there’s always room for improvement.

Black Book as a global sensation

“The Black Book” has made history by becoming the first Nollywood film to claim the number one spot on Netflix worldwide. Within a week of its debut, it soared to the top in 12 countries, including Nigeria, Kenya, Poland, and even the Bahamas. This achievement reflects not only the film’s global appeal but also its ability to resonate with audiences across different cultures.

Plot: A gripping narrative

At the heart of “The Black Book” is a compelling storyline that revolves around Paul Edima, portrayed by Nollywood icon Richard Mofe Damijo (RMD). When Paul’s only son falls victim to a gang of corrupt policemen, he is thrust back into his military past to seek justice. The film explores themes of redemption, justice, and the haunting specter of the past, making it a must-watch for fans of gripping cinematic narratives.

Read also: ‘The Black Book’ becomes Nollywood’s first No.1 on Netflix worldwide

Five strengths of “The Black Book”
1. Outstanding performances:
The ensemble cast, featuring veterans like Sam Dede, Alex Usifo, Shaffy Bello, Ireti Doyle, Patrick Doyle, and Taiwo Ajayi-Lycett, delivers stellar performances that elevate the film. It showcases Nollywood’s immense talent and reinforces its position as a cinematic powerhouse. Well I felt that the A list actors did a good job and gave us a good run for our time.

2. Production quality:
The film’s cinematography, set design, and costumes are visually stunning, capturing the essence of Nigeria’s diverse landscapes and creating a rich backdrop for the story. As you watch the entire movie, you cannot but concur that they spent good money on the production to make it topnotch, the quality was so crisp, you might almost forget that you are watching a Nigerian movie.

3. Global relevance:

“The Black Book” addresses universal themes such as crime, corruption, revenge, and redemption, making it relatable on a global scale. It successfully weaves cultural elements into the narrative while delivering a powerful message. The movie was one that most people could relate too, their ability to infuse busy, important areas in the major cities, made it easy for people to know the exact locations in Lagos.

4. Historical perspective:

Set against the backdrop of the 1980s, the film delves into the shadowy world of drug trafficking and its impact on Nigeria, offering a unique historical perspective, telling us how the military systems works, where orders must be followed to the later, obedience was always vital in the military and bosses must be respected for life.

5. Engaging storytelling:

The film’s gripping narrative keeps viewers hooked from beginning to end. It masterfully balances suspense, emotion, and unexpected twists, ensuring a captivating viewing experience. The slight twist at the tail end, got some people off balance, as they thought they had seen it all.

Read also: The Black Book review: Chapters in Effiong directorial debut

Five shortcomings of “The Black Book”
1. Complex Narrative
Some viewers found the plot to be convoluted, which led to confusion and a loss of interest in the third act. The intricate storyline lacked clarity. The movie started well, but then lost most people after the first 30 minutes, as some of them felt the movie dragged way longer than necessary and could have being shortened.

2. Budget and production quality:
Questions have arisen regarding the reported $1 million budget, and some action scenes were criticized for their chaotic execution. Most people complained that the movie could have been edited way better in comparison to the funds invested into the movie.

3. Inconsistent performances:
A few performances felt out of place, disconnecting the audience from the film’s central storyline. Some of the scenes could have being left, as they created some loopholes here and there. The last scene with all the women, could have being scripted better as most people were expecting action, only to watch discussions and deliberations.

4. American influence:
The film’s overt Americanised tone may distract viewers looking for a more authentic Nigerian narrative. For me I felt that the storyline was so similar to something we have seen on several occasions in foreign movies, where the lead actors go after the killers for taking away their loved ones.

5. Plot twists and unnecessary elements:
Excessive explanations, visual effects, and plot twists involving certain characters made the storyline feel superfluous. Some of the action scenes didn’t look as real as possible and many felt they could have done better, from the burning of the car, to the fighting scene in RMDs place, to the poor effects on the cars during the combat, guess they could make these effects way better in the next movie.

Despite these shortcomings, “The Black Book” stands as a testament to Nollywood’s potential to create compelling and globally resonant action, thriller, and crime cinema movies. It challenges preconceptions and showcases the industry’s growth and ambition. Whether you are a fan of action thrillers or thought-provoking dramas, “The Black Book” offers a unique viewing experience that should not be missed.

Read also: The Black Book: Behind Nigeria film funding revolution

In conclusion, “The Black Book” is more than just a movie; it is a milestone in Nollywood’s journey to international recognition and acclaim. It reminds us that when vision, talent, and determination converge, cinematic magic can happen, even on a $1 million budget.

Well done to the cast, crew and director, guess we are done with this, we now have to move on to the next big thing Nollywood has to offer, 2023 surely would be a good year for most directors and actors as this milestones would surely go down memory lane.