Devil in Agbada is Only a Brave Experiment, Not the Great Nollywood Project

By Ilodigwe C. Kenneth 

All too often have movie critics downplayed the nerve of satirical imitations in a bid to make an often egocentrically ordained “urgent” case. A habit which, sadly, has permuted emerging dispositions towards works that generally fall beneath the benchmark of approved onscreen montage. Of the victims of this conformed cultural entropy, we have lost count. Still, a particular Nollywood offspring, Devil in Agbada, a movie written by Chinneylove Eze and directed by Umanu Elijah, takes a square shape. 

The movie, which premiered in cinemas in June of 2021, has received mixed reactions from viewers and critics. For the former, it sparks an inescapable thrill; perhaps one dampened only by the elegant anticlimax in which it ended. Many others remain afloat in its superficially sensational progression, regarding its dubbed theatrics with a predetermined indifference. However, it remains unsolved how much of the booing received by the movie upon its release stems from that complex, almost intimate, disappointment (or grudge) fans feel when they’re not satisfied with the present performance of characters they hold to high standards and how much of it stems from a well-grounded reservation.

The opening scene of the movie demonstrates an endearing ‘effort’ at the creation of a cinematographic art: Ajagun (Alexander Okeke), head of Otumba’s (Akin Lewis) bodyguards and henchmen is reading from a copy of the Bible in Justice Obanor’s (Kayode Freeman) living room. On Otumba’s orders, they’re there to forcibly get the man to sign an injunction ceding some properties to him. He reads: What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul, and offers a grossly impaired, self-serving but savvy interpretation. Justice Obanor, a righteous man, defies the men; not willing to risk, in his own words, “dismantling his impeccable record on the bench,” until his wife—a hostage—gets on the line. He finally signs the document on gunpoint. Still, things are destined to go south as Ajagun’s colleague relieves his wife of her life instead of “releasing her” as he’s (audibly) instructed, and then shoots the man as he goes berserk on the murderer. This event is witnessed through one of the living room’s windows from a dark corner in the backyard by Irene (Efe Irele), the justice’s daughter who happens, by some freak of circumstance, to not be in the house at the break-in. Horrified out of her gourd by the sight of her parents being shot, she screams, sending the goons after her.

From Bellnaija’s Instagram Page. Cast of DIV.

The plots wound towards an arc as we witness other victims of Chief Otumba Shonibare (Akin Lewis), namely: Kikiola (Linda Osifo) whose father, Rasaki (Desmond Eliot), Otumba’s most trusted consigliere and prospective Chief of Staff, abandons to the tortuous plight of dealing with the psychological aftermath of repeated sexual assault alone, and of struggling to find closure with her powerful abuser. Kiki’s predicament is almost impossibly devastating as she has to live with a bolt in her heart—the knowledge that her father chooses to serve the “devil’s’” cause. Then there’s Tomi (Erika Nlewedin), whose affliction begins when Chief Otumba decides to expand his iniquitous landhold by acquiring her family heirloom. She gets crossed, or so it seems, by the family’s lawyer and her father’s supposed good friend, and loses her property, virginity, and mother to the vicious politician. All three sore women, unleashed from the fear of costs with nothing more to lose in the world, meet in a synchronous turn of events and plot the extermination of Chief Otumba, the Devil in Agbada.

As we move from scene to scene, the movie oscillates between sensational, upbeat actions to grotesque theatrics. We also find several carefully studied and finely executed plots crossing improbable ones. To a commendable extent, the movie exemplifies the harsh tones of our political climate and the vicious ways of our politicians. In this movie, as in many of Chineylove Eze’s films—Pretty Thief (2022), Teni’s Big Day (2023), The Boy Next Door (2022)—to borrow Janna Malamud’s words, talent is balanced by foible as we observe with the concourse of plastic drama and remarkable cinematography. Among blockbusters, Devil in Agbada remains Nollywood’s brave experiment, propagating action and thrill in optimal doses.

Devil in Agbada meets a higher purpose through its bold political depictions and moral innuendos. It succeeds both as a pragmatic social and political satire. It runs its brief course in our minds as every ordinary but sincere thing does. With every confrontation, it holds itself out with the vulnerability of a sentient art, aware of its many shortcomings, but it also calls our minds to our collective duty. And does it matter, one may ask, how the ineloquent tells the truth? Well, it matters how he tells the truth in a story, because then the story will become the truth, but we can always separate both grains with our psionic acumen in the face of things playing out before us. Cinephiles could use some comic thrillers from time to time, even at the expense of the great expectations they bring to the cinema, but only as long as it doesn’t take over the corridors of those streaks we’ve all deemed great movies. 


Sharing is Caring

Tell us what you think. Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.