REVIEW: "The Black Book"
Cast: Richard Mofe-Damijo, Ade Laoye, Sam Dede, Alex Osifo Omiagbo and Ireti Doyle
Director: Editi Effiong
Date of Release: 22nd September, 2023
Plot: When a young man is killed by corrupt policemen and then framed for a crime he didn't commit, his father plots revenge.
After putting up with predictable, campy and over-the-top Nollywood action thrillers for years, "The Black Book" is the real deal when it comes to the genre. Its central themes are corruption and retribution and I can describe the film in 3 words... gritty, dark, heartrending. When it comes to providing a violent and realistic look at corruption in a harsh society, the writer pulled all the stops to make it happen, along with the surprising plot twists. In the end, "The Black Book" exceeded all expectations, earning its current high rating on Netflix.
"The Black Book" tells the heartrending story of Deacon Paul Edima (RMD) who experiences every parent's worst nightmare. His son, who is gunned down to cover an escaped kidnapper's tracks, is an innocent victim of Paul's dark past as the mastermind and his chief accomplices are linked to him. His christian faith shattered, disillusioned by the police, Paul thus takes matters into his own hands by going back to the path he put behind him years back. He doesn't act impulsively. Once the grief and rage sets in, he plans retribution with cool and cunning precision, like Liam Neeson's character in "Taken", and Keanu Reeves' character in "John Wick".
Like the veteran that he is, RMD gave a stellar performance as Paul, a bereaved father with nothing to lose, the criminals who took his son's life (and wouldn't even let him give him a proper burial) bringing out the hidden beast in him. However, Paul is more focused on clearing his son's name than actual revenge, probably because his own list of sins were long enough already.
Sam Dede took a dark turn playing Paul's nemesis Angelo, a totally amoral bastard who doesn't care about the consequences of his actions. His crimes are so evil and cringe worthy, that he is beyond redemption and prison is far from being enough for the likes of him. However, even with his acting chops, Sam Dede is overshadowed by RMD's bigger presence, especially in their scenes together.
Known for playing villainous roles, Alex Osifo Omiagbo played the mastermind, General Issa. Even in a wheelchair, his character is in full control, coldly ruthless and calmly expects all to bend to his will. His first scene with RMD (the first time they share a screen in years) is nail biting; Paul's obvious hatred for him in full force and a sniper's red mark on Issa keeps us on edge.
Patrick Doyle was under used. His character, Senator Dipo, was a cowardly, bumbling fool more interested in saving his son as well as his own skin. He is hardly seen in the film and his son (the reason why Paul's son was gunned down) is not seen again. Ditto veteran Taiwo Ajayi Lycett, who deserved more than scenes behind a desk.
Ade Laoye played Victoria Kalu, initially the stereotype nosy journalist out for a big story, making her really annoying. However , her character evolves after we find out her own past is linked with Paul's and she pours raw emotion once she finds out the devastating truth about him; spitting out both grief and contempt. Her character is torn between doing what's right and letting the past be, as the man who greatly wronged her was greatly wronged as well.
The film's use of atmospheric music and voice overs added to its dark theme and the cinematography was perfect, with no use of stock footage, thankfully! However, it was also fast paced in some scenes, particularly the quick death of the blond haired assassin sent to kill Paul and discredit him; we know nothing about him and all we see is him leaving a trail of bodies. And 'Big Daddy's' (Shaffy Bello) ability to show up at convenient times, is mind bongling.
Well written, well edited, well performed, "The Black Book" is yet another indication that the Nollywood industry has improved.
"The Black Book" reunites Richard Mofe-Damijo, Alex Osifo Omiagbo and Patrick Doyle, who all featured in Zeb Ejiro's eighties soap, "Ripples".