Trying to fall in love with film again.

King of Boys is one of the best Nollywood movies I have ever seen!

Kemi Adetiba's King of Boys is a flawed but ambitious Nollywood epicStory 

King of Boys tells the story of Alhaja Eniola Salami a businesswoman who also happens to be the head of a criminal syndicate that runs underground in Lagos. The movie follows her as she struggles for power with her political peers as well as a subordinate that is trying to take her place as King.

My brother called this movie 'The Nigerian Godfather' and he's right. It has a lot of similar plot threads. You have a ruthless head of a family (in this case a matriarch) and transitions of power. It's a different story than what we usually get from Nollywood were a lot of storylines are superficial. (I'm looking at you Bling Lagosians). There are themes and story beats that mirror what actually goes on. You get a glimpse of backroom deals and the way politicians get away with the things they get away with. It makes for a rich and interesting story.

Acting 

This might be where the movie is the strongest, the actors did a great job. Given the intense nature of the story, you're bound to have scenes that require an actor to give a lot emotionally and you have that in this movie.

When you think of top tier Nollywood actors, Sola Sobowale is up there. Her most notable role is in The Wedding Party which is very different from this movie. And when you contrast these two movies you really get to see her range as an actor. Eniola does something in the first 10 minutes that shows you what kind of character she is. While she's a lot more stoic at the beginning, that changes as the film goes on. As Eniola's life stars to unravel, she gets more erratic and while you see shades of that throughout the film, it comes out in full force by the third act. And if there is one thing that woman will do in a movie, it is shout.

My favourite character is Kemi Salami played by Adesua Etomi. I like her character for the same reason I like Eniola, stoic ruthlessness. She doesn't say much but she doesn't need to. She's the person who is always watching and always listening and when they do say something it is perfect for the situation, especially when she snaps at someone in Yoruba.

When I wrote this review I found out that this was a debut performance for Reminisce who plays Makanaki, and I have to say that I am very impressed. A role like this could not have been easy and especially for someone who hasn't acted before? He did a good job. What makes Makanaki a good antagonist is his unwavering ambition. He knows what he wants and is not afraid of who he has to trample to get there. I do wish we go to see more of his backstory and what made him so jaded and distrusting of those at the top.

The rest of the supporting cast added depth to this movie. With great performances from Paul Sambo, Toni Tones and Jide Kosoko. You have a well-rounded cast that helps push the narrative forward. You have characters who live in moral grey areas and others that walk the straight and narrow and it's interesting seeing those two collide.

Writing/Direction 

King of Boys was written and directed by Kemi Adetiba and is easily one of the most ambitious Nollywood films ever made. Her last film (which was also her directorial debut) was The Wedding Party, a romcom and this was a very interesting change because it's so different from what she has done before.

This movie is described as a thriller and it fits the bill. It has tense moments and what I like the most is that it doesn't make a mistake that a lot of Nollywood movies make which is undercutting serious scenes with comedy. While there are a few moments of levity, it never compromises the story or the tension that has been built. The "funny" moments usually happen in situations that are a little funny to start with. If someone cracks a joke about money being hidden in a septic tank, it makes sense because that in and of itself is a funny situation to be in. I say this a lot but I every movie doesn't need to make me laugh and Kemi Adeitiba understood this.

King of Boys is a very long movie, with a run time of 169 minutes, you're bound to lose focus. While the film does slow down a little in the third act, it never really grinds to a halt. It's intriguing from beginning to end. Which again boils down to the director's ambition. The non-linear story is a little jarring at the beginning but once you understand what is going on then it is very easy to follow from there on out. Some scenes didn't add much to the story but others are very telling of the characters.

And there comes one of my gripes. In a 3 hour movie, we could have spent more time with some characters. Why is Kitan hostile towards his sister? Why does he do nothing for most of the movie? We see a little of the reason but it's never really fleshed out and I wish it was because the scenes between Kitan and Kemi are some of my favourites. Even though this is a political movie, it's also a character study.

CGI/Set Design 

I never really have much to say about the CGI and or Set Design with Nollywood movies. Given the nature of the movie, you see different sides of Eniola, the mafia boss and the businesswoman and there is a visual distinction between the two. One has sets that are brighter and 'in the light' while the other is a lot darker and 'in the shadows'. The set design and cinematography did leave little to be desired at times but overall I'm happy with the way it was used to show different sides of Eniola.

Score/Soundtrack 

The score works. While this movie doesn't have an identifiable score, the use of music helped tell the story and give it depth. Not every scene has a score in it and in a movie like this, I think that was the right decision.

Overall Thoughts

I've been meaning to watch King of Boys for a while. When it came out I saw a lot of praise and I get it. In my review of Elevator Baby (You can watch it here if you like) I said I was waiting to talk about a good Nollywood movie and this is a good one. It subverted all my expectations, with tense moments, a look into corruption and political manoeuvring, it's different from a lot of Nollywood movie out right now.

This movie does have a feminist message but doesn't stop the movie to tell you what it is. You already know what it is when you start watching it. You see Eniola, a woman in a misogynistic society that doesn't accept her till she does something drastic and takes power for herself. Her power status changes throughout the movie and while I didn't love the end, it made sense given the context (and what happens in real life).

Given that this is her second movie, Kemi Adetiba did the damn thing. We don't get movies like this, so for her to go outside the mould and give us a female-led thriller is really exciting. This movie is a step above what we usually see and I am excited to see what she does next.

You can find King of Boys on Netflix 

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