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Gangs Of Lagos review: Jade Osiberu is Queen of Nollywood action

Gangs Of Lagos review: Jade Osiberu is Queen of Nollywood action

The movie “Gang of Lagos” is a purge of fresh sensations that feels urgent and enraged at the recent use of thugs by politicians in Lagos and other states. The story hit home for those who live in cities like Lagos and witnessed the recently concluded 2023 elections.

Jade Osiberu, a film producer in collaboration with Amazon Prime Video, released the platform’s first Nollywood original since entering the Nigerian market in 2022 and the reviews of the film on the streets and across social media platforms have seen fans acknowledge the Greoh Studio boss as the queen of the action genre in Nigeria.

Before the debut of Gangs Of Lagos, fans anticipated what Jade Osiberu would bring after she hit a soft spot in Nigerian movie lovers’ hearts with her previous films Brotherhood’ (2022) and ‘The Trade’, both of which are streaming on Prime Video haven done their rounds in the cinemas.

Gangs of Lagos is told from a relatable point for the average Lagosian. It is a story of the life of the lower-class Lagosians living in Isale Eko and the pipeline of thuggery from ordinary street thugs ‘Area Boy’ to top political figures.

The story follows Obalola Akande ‘Tobi Bakare’ on his journey from childhood as a young boy growing up in the streets of Isale Eko in Lagos under the mentorship of gang leaders and how their influences play out in making him the man he becomes.

Bakare, who also played the lead role in ‘Brotherhood’, showed up big in his lead role as ‘Obalola’ taking the streets together with his siblings ‘Gift’ played by Adesua Etomi Wellington, and ‘Ify’ played by Chike Osebuka, an Afro RnB singer who is appearing in his first acting role in a feature Nollywood film.

The movie’s production started in 2020, and Osiberu’s plot raises the intriguing question of whether she has the time-traveling prowess to make the daring decision to focus the story on political issues that are crucial to Lagosians, particularly at a time when elections have just ended. The narrative of the movie almost perfectly corresponds to the reports of election violence and vote buying that has been circulating on social media platforms.

Read also: Amazon Prime premiers first African original movie in Lagos

The use of child actors is particularly notable given that in many Nollywood productions, their talents are often underutilized. In telling the backstory of a character, the younger actors that play those roles tend not to receive enough screen time in a typical movie, either because the writer doesn’t want to overload viewers with details or because the scheduling of the film wouldn’t allow the act to be included.

Osiberu in this movie is able to give child actors portraying the younger versions of the lead characters enough time to be themselves on set. Maleek Sanni who plays the young Obalola has achieved a fair amount of fame as a content creator with the group ‘Ikorodu Bois’ which has gained global attention from top Hollywood actors for creating parody versions of movie trailers.

While the addition of familiar faces like Eniola Badmus, and Toyin Abraham to the cast may serve as an opportunity for the newer actors to learn from experience, eyebrows were raised on the role Abraham played, as the gubernatorial candidate of the opposition party that sought to end the reign of the existing leading party.

Due to the relevance of the plot, many people on social media criticised the casting of Abraham in that role given that her real-life political activities were totally at odds with the character she portrayed. In January 2023, Abraham faced criticism for declaring support for the APC. This infuriated many of her fans, especially the younger generation who supported the opposition party, “Labour Party,” in the Lagos State gubernatorial elections in 2023.

A film enthusiast and movie critic on Twitter said, “Using Toyin (Abraham) as the opposition to the ruling party didn’t work for me. The film in particular depicted the reality of the political scene in Lagos, the use and pipeline of thuggery for political violence. Factually it has been one political party holding Lagos hostage for 20 years. The irony of the person playing opposition in real life supporting the current situation just didn’t help sell the narrative of the movie in my opinion,” The movie critic said.

However, it’s crucial to note that the film’s production started in 2020, making it difficult to recast the part—should Osiberu have felt under any pressure to do so—since Abraham had only recently made her political views known.

Other new faces in the movie like Zlatan Ibile, Aftobeats rapper, singer ‘Yhemolee’ and skit maker ‘Black Kamaru’ all maximised their screen time and left no one questioning their sudden appearance in movie roles. Despite the complexity of the characters, Osiberu stays true to the film’s premise.

The film’s cinematography and editing ought to serve as a yardstick for future Nollywood productions. The framing of the actors, color grading of the film scenes, and various types of shots all contribute to the visual story and convey to the audience the emotions of the character at that precise moment.

Many would argue that Osiberu’s determination was just as important as the huge budget Amazon put into the creation of the film. The duration of the filming in Isale Eko, according to one of the participating filmmakers, Emmanuel Izuoba, was over two months, demonstrating the time and work required to produce a successful film.