‘Gangs of Lagos’ Offers a Deeper Look into the Nigerian Society
Jade Osiberu’s Gangs of Lagos represents a significant milestone for Amazon Prime Video, as it marks the platform’s first original African film. This movie delves deep into the themes of thuggery and politically affiliated gang culture in Nigeria, going beyond surface-level topics like friendship, family ties, and betrayal. Directed with precision and skill, Gangs of Lagos is a thought-provoking and captivating film that sheds light on the darker aspects of Nigerian society.
At first glance, the film evokes a rich cultural and aesthetic vibe. It begins with a stunning display of the Eyo festival taking place on the streets of Isale Eko, ( Lagos Island). This festival is one of the prominent cultural events of Lagos state, and it sets the stage for the movie’s action-packed scenes.
The opening scene is accompanied by a voiceover from Obalola (Tobi Bakre), who explains how the Eyo masquerade was the first gang in Lagos due to their job of escorting the spirits of dead kings to the underworld and welcoming the new ones.
However, amidst the cultural beauty of Isale Eko, there are several vices that plague the city, including illegal tax collection, betting, incessant killing, and drug pushing, among others.
Gangs of Lagos is an exceptional movie that takes viewers on a journey through the gritty and often dark underbelly of Lagos. The film’s visuals are striking, and the director, Osiberu, has done an excellent job of capturing the rough and somewhat charming aesthetic of Isale Eko.
The high-rise buildings that house the characters convey a sense of fragility and instability, which is a sentiment that many Nigerians can relate to. This is especially true given recent political events in Nigeria, such as the 2023 presidential and gubernatorial elections.
The film also interrogates the mindset of those who engage in unlawful acts and how these impact the electoral process. Obalola (Tobi Bakre) provides an interesting insight into the motives of people who participate in political godfatherism, thuggery, and other forms of political violence.
Although Obalola is arguably the lesser of many evils, the movie does not excuse his misdeeds and instances of violence. In some ways, the film asks the viewer to have “sympathy for the devil,” but it does not absolve him of his wrongdoing.
The casting choices in this film is another element that is particularly impressive. Gangs of Lagos features an array of talented actors who bring their roles to life in a compelling and convincing manner. Adesua Etomi Wellington’s ability to portray a tough, street-smart character, as Ebun, with ruthless qualities is truly commendable. Tobi Bakre also stands out with an award-winning performance as Obalola, highlighting his versatility and depth as an actor. Additionally, the film benefits from the nuanced and impactful performances of supporting actors, including Chioma Chukwuka and Iyabo Ojo. Even with limited screen time, Ojo is able to capture the fierce and unyielding spirit of a typical Nigerian mother. Olarotimi Fakunle’s (Kazeem) portrayal of a street villain is additionally noteworthy, with the actor embodying the cold, calculating attitude of someone who will do whatever it takes to attain power and influence.
Another exceptional aspect of the movie is its cinematography. The various elements come together to create aesthetically appealing scenes that complement the movie’s genre perfectly. The film’s locations also contribute to its authenticity. Shot in real-life locations in Isale Eko, the movie immerses the viewer in the harsh and often unforgiving reality of Lagos.
While the film is remarkable, it seems rushed and does not always explore through a more insightful development of certain parts of its storyline or character development, which would have been made possible if the film was longer or made into a series. Despite this, the movie’s relevance to recent political events in Nigeria makes it a poignant and powerful watch.
Overall, Gangs of Lagos is a must-watch for anyone who wants to see outstanding cinematography, strong performances, and a story that resonates with the realities of Nigeria’s political landscape.
Release date: 7 April 2023
Duration: 2 hour, 4 minutes 37 seconds
Streaming service: Prime Video
Director: Jade Osiberu
Cast: Tobi Bakare, Adesua Etomi-Wellington, Chike Osebuka, Olarotimi Fakunle, Eniola Badmus, Olarotimi Fakunle, Chioma Chukwuka, Bimbo Ademoye, Iyabo Ojo, Zlatan, Debo “Mr Maraconi” Adedayo, Wasiu Ayinde Pasuma, Toyin Abraham, Tayo Faniran, Damilola Ogunsi, and Funke Williams.