Kemi Adetiba’s King of Boys is an impressive political thriller with exuberant picture quality and a fiery protagonist. Eniola Salami played by Sola Sobowale is the Oluomo of a dystopia or utopian Lagos (depending on your penchant for violence) in a fight to become the Jagaban. She is fierce, ambitious, ruthless and fist knotted in a struggle with an underboss, Makanaki: a distraction to her political prospect.
The film opens with a Lagos owambe styled birthday party. The scene, graced by the cameo performance of K1 De Ultimate introduces Alhaja Eniola Salami as a socialite and an important character to the story. Few minutes into the film, one might think Adetiba is re-creating Tinuade Coker of The Wedding Party but fortunately, that impression didn’t last long as we see a man shudders to death while Eniola wipes his blood off her hands.
Eniola’s character is where the movie rise and falls. Like Taraji P. Henson (Melinda) in Tyler Perry’s Acrimony, Sola Sobowale plays that character so profoundly that one could think that Adetiba created the film around Sobowale’s theatrics. But the believable truth, however, is that Kemi Adetiba knows her character and where to find them. The gold struck of the movie is Reminisce who played Makanaki, a flammable character that threatens the clandestine world of Eniola Salami. With Makanaki, Reminisce will sure give popular Nollywood bad boys like RMD and Saint Obi a run for their years of experience.
For most cinephiles, Adetiba’s effort in King of Boys may not be that surprising, especially considering her feature-length directorial debut, The Wedding Party which was a box office smash with an almost brilliant screenplay. But unlike her hired effort in The Wedding Party, Adetiba is not just a Director in King of Boys, she is also the Writer and Co-producer and that gives her total creative sway.
And did Kemi shine through?
Maybe Adetiba being the Writer, Director and Co-Producer wasn’t that much of a good idea. The acting is so good that the story falls short in matching its prospect. Well, apart from the timely twist that creates the ‘oh wow’ and ‘oh shit’ moments of the movie, we are forced to sit through a nearly 3-hour action packed screenplay with a failed context.
Kemi Adetiba tells an unnecessarily horridious graphic story of violence in the Lagos underworld. The protagonist of King of Boys has so many skeletons in her cupboard. She killed, broke bones and laws to be the King of Boys in Lagos and she is ready to do more to be a Minister. The Director of the film tried to invoke a common emotional experience in the audience. Through flashbacks, we followed young Eniola (played by Toni Tones) around Lagos, through her travails and schemes and because of this, we become subconsciously empathetic to her cause. However, this is largely because of the convincing acts of Toni Tones and Sola Sobowale as they both outshine the plot.
Adetiba scores modestly in her shades on corruption but most of the themes of the film are contextually flawed. For instance, we are not sure whether that is what the Director intends to communicate but at the end of the film, violence and victimhood gets a tap on the back. Also, as much as we excite on the female power the King of Boys exhumes, the viewer is left to grapple with the moral consciousness that the film tries to strip one of.
To be fair, King of Boys is a perfect Nollywood, in fact, it puts all the star-choked and pale comedy we have been offered as ‘new Nollywood’ in recent past to shame. But at the end of the film, what really stays is not the story of power and the Lagos underworld, instead, it is the thrills and gestures; the glorious acting of the casts. However, in the end, for Adetiba and Nollywood, it is a win-win.