King of Boys is an ambitious (bloated and clunky) take on Nigerian politics and the dangers of power.
The movie 'King of Boys' has a simple but yet catchy storyline. It's a political thriller helmed by Kemi Adetiba whose last effort 'The Wedding Party' was a smash of epic proportions.
Her 2018 effort is about the life and times of Alhaja Eniola Salami (Sola Sobowale), a woman of absolute power and control of the underworld.
King of Boys starts at the point when Salami is about to trade her criminal power for a high political position. Her past, however, hinders her ambition. Also, an underboss Makanaki (played by award-winning rapper Reminisce) makes life more difficult as he makes a play for Salami's crown.
It's a political thriller and an ambitious attempt to take on the cesspit that is Nigerian politics.
Sola Sobowale once again delivers with trademark bullish force. The world of crime is not for the meek-hearted and Sobowale uses her high-octane energy to breathe life into a cold-hearted anti-hero.
Her acting pretty much does it for the movie. Even though her performance isn't new to her long-time fans, seeing Sola Sobowale on the big screen wrestle with political godfathers and killers while being a caring mother is spellbinding, to say the least.
She almost practically drags the movie to a level of appreciation. While the veteran actress' talent is nothing new, Reminisce and Toni Tones bring the freshness.
Nollywood has struggled to find a bad boy since the days of Hanks Anuku. Well, casting directors worth their salt will most likely give Reminisce a shot after watching this movie.
As Makanaki, he delivers a spine-tingling and authentic performance. If Alhaja Salami is evil then Makanaki is pure darkness.
For his debut, Reminisce gives a no-holds-barred performance as the underboss who is ready to dethrone his former boss. As an armed thief, he is ready to kill a baby and to become the king of boys he is sells his soul to the devil. Kemi Adetiba struck gold by casting Reminisce in this role.
Another gem in this movie is Toni Tones who plays the role of a younger Alhaja Salami, a streetwise vixen who schemes her way to the top of the criminal ladder. With limited screen time, Tones make a stakes a claim on why she should be regarded as an actress to watch out for. If she continues with this type of performance, a big award is not far off.
Ambition, power, karma are the themes in this movie and they come out particularly strong. Salami's rise and fall is a modern re-telling of of the consequences of unbridled lust for power. This is an idea we can always resonate with- evil will always self-destruct.
The movie also has a slant of women empowerment to it. The title of 'king' or 'Oba' for a woman who rules the underworld is a statement of female domination. In a field dominated by men, here comes a woman ready to crush her opponents with no remorse. The fact that the movie is the brainchild of a woman adds more emphasis to Beyonce's 'Who runs the world? Girls!' mantra.
For all its ambition to create a political thriller masterpiece, King of Boys falls short. Even with a reduced screen time, the movie feels too bloated and clunky to properly narrate the life and times of a criminal queenpin.
Doing so, requires a delicate act of the most functional of writing, the most brilliant of acting and no-nonsense editing that can cut away the frills and thrills to present a solid film akin to 'The Godfather II' that simultaneously narrates the rise of the Corleone criminal dynasty and the struggles of holding on to power. To be fair, this is a feat even the greatest auteurs have failed to reach.
If trimmed of its fat, King of Boys would be a leaner and meaner machine that delivers knock out after knock out.
Beyond this excess, many actors also fail to deliver. They roam aimlessly with little conviction or hardly any purpose. For such a large cast, only five or so actors showed up.
Lately, Nollywood has been fond of using an all-star cast to score a big hit. It worked excellently in 'Wedding Party' and to some on extent in the sequel. For 'King of Boys', this approach does not work.
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There are roles in this movie that should have been given to upcoming actors. Casting big names in inconsequential roles does little even if they are meant to drive people to the cinemas.
Kemi Adetiba threw the sink at scoring a hit movie by directing an ambitious flick. It's either you go big or you go home. Nigeria's movie industry is at a point where we need bold directors willing to tell our own stories and Adetiba is doing just that. Our cinema screens do not need uncreative movies that should be sold as DVD home videos in the first place.
I suspect the flaws in this movie are temporary kinks that Kemi Adetiba will eventually figure out soon to help her create bigger and better movies.
Despite the errors, King of Boys will be an enjoyable movie for many, especially movie goers who have been fed with unimaginative Nollywood movies at the big screen lately.
As Sola Sobowale's character in this movie proves, there is nothing wrong with having flaws as long it's worth watching. And King of Boys is worth watching.