Colliding Stories in ‘Collision Course’
Collision Course, a 2022 film directed by Bolanle Austen-Peters, tackles the police interaction with the public which often breaks down into police harassment, corruption, and ultimate brutality. The film begins on a grim note as rogue officers turn literal butchers of young and hapless people they’re sworn to protect. We’re also allowed a peep into the backstory of an average policeman by way of corporal Magnus (Kelechi Udegbe) who’s under a lot of pressure. Officer Magnus has the worst life imaginable: He lives with his family in decrepit official police accommodation, his kids and wife can hardly manage a decent meal and it’s doubtful whether they can afford the right medical care. In fact, it turns out that they have already lost one sick child due to lack of money and official health care. Moreover, Magnus’ wife, Ekaette (Chioma Akpotha), has threatened and she makes good her threat to leave him and return to her parents because she says she cannot afford to lose another child. Her husband is unable to convince her of sunny days ahead when he makes his planned move to a more ‘lucrative’ unit of the police, the tactical anti-robbery squad, TARS.
It’s under this burden that corporal Magnus goes to do his job of protecting and defending the public. His path soon collides with Mide (Daniel Etim Effiong), an upcoming alternative artiste who is from a privileged background having had the best education, with a law degree from abroad. Understandably, Mide who has a pregnant fiancée Hannah (Oluwabamike “Bambam” Olawunmi-Adenibuyan), doesn’t have the support of his father (Bimbo Manuel) even as he’s bent on proving himself to him. So, what happens when the gun-toting, under-pressure Magnus collides with the hustling Mide? Per usual, the policeman is bullish, buoyed on by the power of his gun. And even though Mide doesn’t assert his privilege, officer Magnus cannot see beyond what he thinks Mide represents: a young man who looks rich and appears to be having the time of his life. However, they soon reach the same conclusion that the system’s actually to blame for both of their woes, just as an accidental discharge from corporal Magnus takes out Mide. And so, just like that, another life is cut short.
If the objective was to show police highhandedness, or police brutality, Collision Course does a decent job of showing all that. But then, stories of police corruption and brutality in Nigeria are not really new. Chances are things may be worse in real life. There’s no doubt majority of Nigerian police officers (‘officers’ not necessarily tied to seniority) aren’t adequately taken care of. From the hard-life training they receive to poor remuneration to the lack of security for their families in case of death while on duty; there’s not much to cheer. In 2013, Channels Television aired a documentary to show the horrible conditions at the Police College, Ikeja, Lagos State. In the immediate aftermath of that exposé, the right noises were made by the usual suspects, promises were made as to how heads were going to roll and the great change that imminent and so on and so forth. However, as Collision Course shows, nine years after that Channels TV documentary, things may have become even worse for the police in Nigeria.
On a personal note, I’m surrounded by relatives in the police force. My older brother is a policeman, as is my uncle (my father’s only brother), in-laws, and cousins, plus numerous African ‘brothers’ from my village are all policemen. There are even a handful of policewomen in this mux. So, I’m not in doubt or denial about how poorly the average Nigerian policeman is treated, especially those in the junior ranks. What’s more, you don’t have to have police relatives to know how bad things are. Just look at the policemen at the numerous check points. For this reason, I doubt that the main objective of the producers of Collision Course was to focus on police suffering. Or attempt to justify police brutality with the poor conditions of their jobs.
What if corporal Magnus, against all odds, does the unexpected by not turning his frustration on the public? After all, not every hard-pressed policeman is murderous. This angle would give us more food for thought. People can then ask questions: How do those kinds of officers manage to resist the temptation to let loose their frustration? Can they inspire other policemen? Again, the work could’ve started from the top of the police hierarchy. In this film, there appears to be a disconnect between the officers at the top and the lowly-ranked officers like Magnus and his partner, (Michael John). After Magnus is shown to be guilty, he’s taken away under the others of the DCO (Norbert Young). We don’t see any attempt at introspection or efforts to dig further. It seemed as if things nothing had changed, and things are going to continue as before.
Collision Course is supposed to be fiction but doesn’t stop one from asking more questions. For instance, it’s not clear how Mide’s back story helps the rest of the film. Did it collide with the police brutality plot on its way to standing alone? Interestingly, on its own, Mide’s story, the story of a privileged boy who endures school to please his father but decides to pursue his own passion could’ve made for some pleasant if not compelling viewing. Considering that there are now a few real-life stories that would Mide’s story, as is, a hard sell. Think of Falz, a lawyer from a family of lawyers who left it all for hip-hop music.
All said, Bambam turns out to be a pleasant surprise in her interpretation and delivery of her role as Hannah, Mide’s pregnant fiancée. Chioma Akpotha, Kelechi Udegbe, Ade Laoye, Daniel Etim Effiong, Bimbo Manuel don’t disappoint.
Movie: Collision Course
Director: Bolanle Austen-Peters
Starring: Daniel Etim Effiong, Kelechi Udegbe, Chioma Akpotha, Bimbo Manuel, Oluwabamike “Bambam” Olawunmi-Adenibuyan) –, Norbert Young, Ade Laoye, Gregory Ojefua, Kenneth Okolie, Kalu Ikeagwu