Review: “Gangs of Lagos” is a compelling crime thriller but not necessarily about the realities of Isalẹ Eko

Omoleye Omoruyi
Gangs of Lagos (2023)

“Gangs of Lagos” begins with a de-emphasis of the Eyo masquerade as a spirit being, and while we agree that modernisation enabled the politicisation and belittlement of elements of the traditional African society, we are tearful when we see that kind of portrayal.

“It happens, it is real.”
No. Drop that shi*t. That’s a stretch, and not too many people make an effort at comprehension.

The second scene in “Gangs of Lagos” is a more realistic portrayal – typical everyday Lagos where crime is a legality and you either protect yourself or avoid trouble. But, then, stories like this play better as a series.

Title: Gangs of Lagos
Director: Jadesola Osiberu
Writers: Kay I. JegedeJadesola Osiberu

The plot – “Gangs of Lagos”

Osiberu gives the audience an insight into what Isale-Eko is supposedly all about at the beginning (alongside an uninspiring narration), then fades into a distraction, supposedly ‘instructions on rigging an election’, and the ‘wise up’ speech.

In this life, there are only two ways out. Number one, six feet under the ground. Number two, you take your rightful place in party politics,” Alaye Baba Adekunle (Alaye Bam Bam), the King of the Criminals – the Eleniyan, says to Akinwale, his protege and heir. He was referring to a life of illegality that Isale-Eko is famous for and asking Akinwale to embrace his role in that kind of society.

"Gangs of Lagos"
“Gangs of Lagos”

Read also: “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” is epic fantasy and a lot of fun

Akinwale went with the first option before we could start understanding the film’s intent. He was slaughtered.

Before then, he is shown to have some iota of humanity. No wonder he takes in Obalola, a child, alongside two other kids, but doesn’t want them to follow in his footsteps because he also wants to leave that life.

Gangs of Lagos
Obalola in “Gangs of Lagos”

With Akinwale‘s absence, however, Obalola and his friends have to work for Kazeem (Olarotimi Fakunle) – a greedy and ruthless gang leader, and it is back to the status quo and a butchering spree all the way.

In a surprising twist, we see Bamidele Olanrewaju (Toyin Abraham – an unyielding supporter of Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Babajide Sanwo-Olu), a gubernatorial candidate asking “Are we not tired?”

You’ve got to be kidding

The election theme with Bamidele in it is actually a reach.

What do we think?

We mentioned that “Gangs of Lagos” is of a crime-oriented Isale-Eko, but that is only because the name is mentioned more times than we can count. The audience is not drawn emotionally to that life of thuggery and poverty that is supposedly the story’s central theme.

We only see blood driblets – from the butchering of men – and a narration that more than 100 people died in a fight that ensues after Ninalowo (Tayo Faniran) dies.

"Gangs of Lagos"
“Gangs of Lagos”

No one ignorant of the story of Isale-Eko would understand the complexities of that life. It is not chilling music and crying people that tells that story.

How will Kazeem – the Eleniyan – enter a street and boys do not have their hands up, jumping and raising one leg like Kangaroos, shouting ‘tuale’? How will members of the Nigerian police not be seen shaking hands with either Kazeem or Olorogun (Yinka Quadri)?

On a literary note, “Gangs of Lagos” rests its oars on themes of betrayal, feigned loyalty, brotherhood, greed, and power – and a rushed ending.

It simply highlights the fact that loyalty is a hard call for people of the underground, as money and power will make human beings change the colour of their wings without blinking twice.

We can’t say nada of the dialogue because we are either distracted by Terrible (Black Kamoru) trying to speak English, a narration that we would prefer to be left out, or a sequence of conversations that don’t turn heads.

Characterisation is mostly the only thing Nollywood has gotten right.

But “Gangs of Lagos” gives us a sense that Nollywood can get everything right. The fight scenes look well rehearsed, and you would almost believe that Gift (Adesua Etomi-Wellington) is a kung-fu expert in reality.

"Gangs of Lagos"
Gift in “Gangs of Lagos”

It is a reminder of the ‘effort’ made in Brotherhood, which is also about crime, produced by Jadesola Osiberu and Tobi Bakre, also as a main character.

Stream or skip?

“Gangs of Lagos” is not about gangs or poverty or the underground that is Isale-Eko.

You’ll expect a different approach to stories about crime in Lagos, but this story, as much as the attempt is outstanding, lacks originality and the substance that would make you see that Isale-Eko aborigines were indeed part of the story.

Jade, however, makes an effort, and that is what you may enjoy.

Technext Newsletter

Get the best of Africa’s daily tech to your inbox – first thing every morning.
Join the community now!

Register for Technext Coinference 2023, the Largest blockchain and DeFi Gathering in Africa.

Technext Newsletter

Get the best of Africa’s daily tech to your inbox – first thing every morning.
Join the community now!