King of Boys is a political crime thriller written and directed by Nigerian movie/music video director, Kemi Adetiba. The movie tells the story of female criminal underworld leader, Eniola Salami’s – played by Sola Sobowale – rise to power and her travails as the ‘King of Boys.’ Now, let’s review the movie.
It’s really no news that movies other than comedies – slapsticks, majorly – are becoming a dying breed in Nigerian cinemas nowadays. King of Boys is one of such rare Nollywood films that do not fit into that booming comedy mold. Kemi Adetiba doesn’t settle for the guarantee of commercial success that these comedies, in recent times, have proven to possess. Rather, she damns the consequences and delivers a compelling political crime thriller. The movie, in this regard, was a breath of fresh air, making the writer/director more than deserving of praise.
King of Boys was woven around a very interesting premise. The protagonist, Eniola Salami, had, up until now, successfully run the criminal underworld, discreetly handling dirty jobs for top politicians. For unrevealed reasons, she decides the next step was to get her a seat at the political table. She gets assured by her political connects that her desires would become reality. However, when time came for them to deliver on their promise, they, in characteristic fashion, disappoint Eniola. This leaves for an embittered, enraged and battle ready, Alhaja Eniola Salami as the first act of the movie concludes.
However, as the second act of the movie kicks off the plot begins to slowly veer off course. Rather than see Alhaja Eniola go to war with her newly made enemies, the plots shifts to a power tussle between her and one of the ‘boys’ she is supposed to be ‘kinging’ over, in the person of recalcitrant Makanaki, played by indigenous rapper, Reminisce. Unsatisfied with Alhaja Eniola’s rule, Makanaki makes to usurp her position as leader. Consequently, we see less of the political upper echelon that Alhaja initially had squabbles with and more of Makanaki. The Makanaki storyline was, in its own right, interesting and engaging. That notwithstanding, the fact it wasn’t set up as the major plot made dwelling on it feel quite out of place.
Also, I’d say the movie suffered from having a passive protagonist. Passive protagonists, in simple terms, are protagonists who aren’t proactive. Once conflict started rearing its head, Alhaja did little to nothing to fix things. I feel like with the lead character, the movie teased more than it ended up delivering. Earlier scenes of the movie pitched Alhaja Eniola Salami as a force not to be messed with. However, when trouble started, contrary to expectations, she lost her resolve and gave in all too quickly. Save for the free passes she got, Alhaja Eniola would have been crushed easily.
And, finally, the resolution of the film seemed quite shoehorned to me. The ease with which Odogwu and Makanaki’s boys turned on him came off like a Deux-ex-Machina type resolution.
One department where this movie can hardly be faulted is its casting department. Kudos to whoever the casting director for this project was, he/she did a good job. The only reservation I had was the matching of little, young adult and adult Eniola Salami. There was a clear lack of consistency in the mastery of the Yoruba language with young adult Eniola Salami – played by Toni Tones. I loved Toni Tones’ overall performance, but, as a Yoruba boy, I couldn’t overlook the fact that she struggled with her Yoruba sometimes, bearing in mind that little Eniola could only communicate in Yoruba initially and only got to learn English later on in the movie.
As expected from the caliber of performers that made up the cast, the acting performances were solid. Even, debutant, Reminisce gave an Erik Killmonger-esque performance in his role as antagonist.
You’ve probably heard about the movie’s 3 hours runtime, if not, you’re welcome. To be candid, I feel the movie could have been told in a shorter time frame. There were scenes that ran for longer than necessary, likewise scenes that shouldn’t have made the final cut at all.
So, there were two notable instances of animal brutality in this movie. In my opinion, those scenes were unnecessary as they didn’t really do much to advance the plot.
Also, having fog fill the interrogation room? What was that? I guess the music video director in Kemi Adetiba just had to leave her stamp on the movie.
For the sole reason that it dared to be different, I wouldn’t hesitate with recommending King of Boys. In my opinion, it was an enjoyable movie with untapped potential to be better. What I loved the most about the movie was how it mirrored the rot in our political sphere and the hopelessness and despair that, for this reason, clouds the masses. One thing is certain, fun-seeking moviegoers will be won over by this one. Critical moviegoers, however, will definitely leave the cinema hall with reservations.