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Oris Aigbokhaevbolo: ‘Out of Luck’ Conjures Disappointment From Promise

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poster OOLNothing prepares you for the disappointment that is Out of Luck. Not the title, that slick 3-word, 3-syllabled compact phrasing. Not the trailer, which having seen the film, I think used up all of the good moments. And not the premise: a lottery operator has to pay a drug boss money the latter hasn’t won.

How has Out of Luck, directed by Niyi Akinmolayan, managed to dredge disappointment from promise?

Before anything else, it’s a failure of atmosphere. Somehow the film leaves a creation of atmosphere to its surroundings, primarily a beer parlour and a drug den. A great choice of location worked for the Lagos life Oriahi’s Taxi Driver aimed to portray, but even there, the photography amplified what was. In Out of Luck the photography ruins what is.

Out of Luck has three main characters. Dapo is the lottery operator who gets into trouble when an issue with timing means a drug boss receives no returns on a correct sequence of numbers. Played by Tope Tedela, who receives a low haircut so his soft looks fits with the environment, Dapo is in love with Halima (Linda Ejiofor). Halima is the belle of the area; onscreen she bestows a kiss on the head of one old man and before her relationship with Dapo, has bestowed her love on drug boss Innocent (Femi Branch). Although framed as a race to pay (and/or escape) a drug boss, this love triangle is Out of Luck’s true subject—what, in academic circles, may be called a research question: What happens when a woman goes against her evolutionary need for security, opting for the aesthetic ideal of a weak, good looking mate? Derailed by its gangster aspirations, it isn’t a question a question the film answers well.

Innocent growls through the film’s duration, calling Dapo ‘Fine Boy’. Implicit in the nickname is a sneering, ‘Boy, you are spineless.’ Dapo knows Innocent is right. And to disprove Innocent’s assertion, Dapo decides to be brave. Being forced to man-up while a love interest watches is a familiar spot for non-cavemen. It is the reason a new driver in Oriahi’s Taxi Driver is told to target girls in company of their boyfriends—in that arrangement men fork out more money for cab fare. It is also why few men cry before their women. Of course, Dapo’s other problem is that he lives in Lagos, a city where every male in the street is a caveman or has to appear to be so to survive. (Was there any way to traverse the old Oshodi at night without summoning unknown powers to look menacing?) For Dapo, it’s down to two options: flee Lagos or do something criminally brave. You can guess what a threatened manhood makes him do. Halima, however, thinks different: She wants to beg Dapo’s estranged brother for money.

Thus a domestic subplot emerges. Thus a different set of actors appear. Seun (Wole Ojo) as Dapo’s brother. Bisola (Adesua Etomi) as Seun’s wife. Both characters are rich; sadly, both actors are unsuited. They form an unflattering contrast. Ojo is aloof, as is his acting wont. Etomi is over enthusiastic — the actress came from stage and appears unaware that what may be powerful onstage is hammy onscreen. When we meet Bisola, she’s an eager package bouncing, like a yoyo with a nervous system, to please a brother-in-law we have no cause to believe she knew existed. Later she’s a love guru. Nollywood, as shown here, has gone from making witches of wives to having them as goody-two-shoes. (Feminists should have quite the day with this paradigm.)

As Bisola/Etomi is too present and Seun/Ojo is barely there, the couple prove you don’t need great chemistry to have a rich marriage, nor do you need to be suitable to get roles. A pair of pretty faces works in both instances.
Out of Luck has its eyes trained on Hollywood even as it gropes at lower class lives in Lagos. In some hands, this manoeuvring may work, especially when the filmmaker shows an understanding of the local content and the foreign form. But Out of Luck shows an admiration, not an understanding, of Hollywood tropes. The result makes for jarring viewing. In one instance, Innocent—embodied by a stocky Femi Branch savouring his role as American thug in a Nigerian slum—shoots a thieving half-clad employee so that she falls against a glass door. It’s an overdone Hollywood scene unduly overwrought by Out of Luck.

Although a story about a romantic triangle, Out of Luck apes the wrong Hollywood genre by focusing on faux-nourish aspects. The prime example comes when Innocent tries to barter Halima. Give me Halima and I’ll forget what you owe, he says to Dapo. Wrong move. As everyone knows, the woman is bound to disagree and the weak man hates being a weaker jerk. Rather than copy Hollywood action movies, there is the example of John Gage (Robert Redford) in 1993’s Indecent Proposal. There the proposition was devoid of guns: Give me one night with your wife and you can have a million. (Of course you could say nineties’ Redford plus a million dollars is a different deal from Branch’s potbelly and a million Naira. But then power is a useful aphrodisiac.)

Still, Hollywood won’t help this one. Mostly because Out of Luck looks and sounds amateur. As said, the film’s photography hardly works. Ditto its sound. Perhaps courtesy of misplaced microphones and flawed design, the film’s sound is all over the place. The sounds of violence are especially poor.

The worst is saved for last. Out of Luck fields a last scene copied and pasted from shabby Hollywood films. It is a very familiar sequence for anyone who saw a fair share of Hollywood in the nineties. I refer to the one where a struggle among two or more characters leads to a weapon spilling unto the hands of another character, usually a woman, a child—or, in general, the most unqualified character around.

At that point, the viewer blurts a sigh: She’s seen it done before. She’s also seen it done better. Way better.

Oris Aigbokhaevbolo is an award-winning writer, media consultant and creative entrepreneur. He runs the writing academy Write with Style and the boutique editorial and media consultancy firm C&B, which helps young filmmakers/musicians/artists shape their brand and get noticed locally and internationally in a crowded media space. He's on Twitter: @catchoris. And Instagram: @catchorisgram

20 Comments

  1. Debby Dibs

    December 30, 2015 at 7:02 pm

    Apologies that my comment is more about the critic than his essay – he seems to know his stuff.

    • Please

      December 30, 2015 at 9:07 pm

      As someone who has seen the movie, trust me, he doesn’t. The movie is a mess, this much is true. But this review (like everything this Oris fellow punishes the world with) is far less concerned with things like fact or accuracy or insight or actual critical consideration, than it is with the kind of empty and postured grandstanding Oris revels in.

    • Pearl

      January 8, 2016 at 11:01 pm

      Oh please. You gave an axe to grind with Oris take it elsewhere.

    • observer

      December 31, 2015 at 12:52 pm

      He does. He does… If he doesn’t become bias at some point, I predict he’d go far.

  2. nene

    December 30, 2015 at 8:50 pm

    i thought the movie would be good from watching the trailer. i’ll still try to see this movie just to be sure this critic is dying the truth

  3. Chic_hijabi

    December 30, 2015 at 11:58 pm

    Please I beg of you, save me the the lamentation, seems more like a vendetta than a critic, so…..in short, don’t watch?

  4. Chic

    December 31, 2015 at 9:30 am

    This critique is (at it’s best) piss poor. Couldn’t make any sense of the analysis. The characters were just glossed over like the writer was in a hurry to complete & submit an assignment with a deadline. And that seemingly endless & tiring comparison to Hollywood (eye roll). Is Nollywood supposed to focus on competing/meeting up with Hollywood or just tell damn good stories?

    Forget the accolades this guy, focus on delivering an objective critique and not one that looks like you have a personal grouse with the filmmaker & are bitter about it.

    Cheers

    • observer

      December 31, 2015 at 1:21 pm

      You couldn’t make sense of the review? Am I dumb or am I damn dumb if I say I did? To sum everything he said up, the film is a poor rip off with substance or style. Got it?

      Most Nollywood films I’ve seen in cinema feels like Hollywood films. Their form, dialogue (as someone who’s lived in the States and Europe it turns my stomach) and fascination with “twist endings” backs up this claim. Since these new/evolved crop of Nigerian filmmakers seem to derive their inspiration from Hollywood films why can’t the reviewer make comparisons to Hollywood? If our filmmakers focus on telling or retelling core Nigerian stories and stop ripping off Hollywood films such comparisons wouldn’t be made. No?

      Why do you think he has personal grouse ? With all. respect, do you read foriegn reviews at all? I suspect you all attacking this guy know this him in a personal level. Suspect is the word. I stand corrected. Is he intimidating? A d-bag? Master or self agrandization? Maybe, but his reviews don’t project him as that. I don’t know what’s with the attack on him but it’s something. Leave it be, he is good critic.

    • observer

      December 31, 2015 at 1:24 pm

      Without substance or style.

    • Dmistify

      January 6, 2016 at 6:38 am

      Oris abi Observers … SFW if these filmmakers draw inspiration for Hollywood or abroad. .Isn’t that much the same way ‘Whoreis’ prides and palms himself off to the masses as educated from foreign shores. Get over yourselves! Besides, movie reviews are only a very recent venture for ‘Whoreis’ aren’t they. His field up to now was reviewing music until Bella gave him this gig. Guess that oyinbo wash is really working for you/him. But hey, It’s nothing personal though. lol

      ps You managed to sum up the whole review in a couple of clear concise paragraphs…irony!! You just made the point which everyone’s been eluding too. In short Too long & Boring for bella. Hahaha! Maybe you should be teaching your friend Whoreis how its done or better still ask bella for his job instead..

    • Pearl

      January 8, 2016 at 11:03 pm

      Nor mind dem.

    • Eng ed

      December 31, 2015 at 1:39 pm

      It’s *at its best*. This critic has a deadline. What is your excuse?

  5. observer

    December 31, 2015 at 12:53 pm

    I haven’t been interested to see a film from the director after I saw Kajola.

  6. waka pass

    December 31, 2015 at 3:17 pm

    in my opinion oh, the critique wasn’t compering the film to Hollywood films rather was indicating that the filmmakers tried to replicate some scenes in Hollywood fashion but they missed the mark. I feel in the land of the blind, a one eyed man is key. i think Oris doing ok… i mean so far so good. yet to see a good review of a Nigerian film from him though.

  7. waka pass

    December 31, 2015 at 3:23 pm

    *land of the blind one eyed man is king*

  8. Lolo

    December 31, 2015 at 8:44 pm

    Nothing prepares you for the disappointment that accompanies reading this critique. It settles in your belly like really bad bile bent on leaving you sick. For weeks. To me, this write up is rather incoherent and I wonder the basis for the bias. First off, I do not personally know Niyi Akinmolayan (with whom I’m beginning to suspect the author has beef). However, I know some of the actors and like most viewers, we’d all considered the film a breath of fresh air.

    Failure of atmosphere? Really? Did you observe the various production sets? The detail? Especially Innocent’s Den depicting the ladies handling illegal drugs etc? (No spoiler intended folks, sorry). The lighting? Picture quality? The overall ambiance?? If this didn’t work for you, it clearly worked for me and others around. We were taken on a journey never before witnessed in Nigerian Cinema. The most important thing is it was a beautifully told/ sold story. ..AND IT WORKED!! How about giving them credit for that at least?

    “What happens when a woman goes against her evolutionary need for security, opting for the aesthetic ideal of a weak, good looking mate?”
    >>Really? This is what you deduced from the story using your manly logic? First off, I’ll not make this a feminist issue but please do not dabble in areas you clearly know nothing about. If you’d paid more attention to this movie, you’d observe the “LOVE” (La-dee-dah, Kum-bayah, yes, Love!) element. The woman simply followed her ‘heart’ – not the aesthetic ideal of a weak, good looking mate as you’ve coined it. (Sorry folks, spoiler unintended).
    “Innocent growls through the film’s duration, calling Dapo ‘Fine Boy’. Implicit in the nickname is a sneering, ‘Boy, you are spineless.’ Dapo knows Innocent is right. And to disprove Innocent’s assertion, Dapo decides to be brave.”
    >>Rather vague, the term ‘Brave’ (in what way exactly?). How exactly did you measure this?

    “For Dapo, it’s down to two options: flee Lagos or do something criminally brave. (?) You can guess what a threatened manhood makes him do. Halima, however, thinks different: She wants to beg Dapo’s estranged brother for money.”
    >>Again your (mis)use of the brave term. Also, you fail to point out that Dapo alienated himself from his brother (for concrete reasons) and opted rather to commit a criminal act (steal) than seek the support of his millionaire brother. Some could argue that his resolve to take the hard route as opposed to begging his millionaire brother for crumbs, is/was equally brave (Potato-Potato if you get where this is headed).

    “The result makes for jarring viewing. In one instance, Innocent—embodied by a stocky Femi Branch savouring his role as American thug in a Nigerian slum—shoots a thieving half-clad employee so that she falls against a glass door. It’s an overdone Hollywood scene unduly overwrought by Out of Luck.”
    >> It is not out place for thugs worldwide to maim/kill their own upon discovery of a theft – especially as a statement or a lesson to others intending to follow suit. It’s not exclusively a Hollywood/American tradition, and please tone down the Nollywood-Hollywood comparisons. They serve no purpose and are an overkill to put it mildly. Focus more on your demography. Thank you.

    PS. Again, I apologize to those who haven’t seen this movie, kindly excuse my spoilers (they were minimal, promise). If you haven’t seen this movie “OUT OF LUCK”. Please take your time and see it to make an informed decision for yourself. Happy New Year folks!

    • Toenails

      January 1, 2016 at 8:29 am

      I’m laughing. You tie yourself in knots. 1. You say Dapo not begging for money can be brave. Which is exactly what the review says if you read beyond the headline. 2. A long review says something about the film’s influences and style without spoilers. Even if it’s a negative review curious readers may want to watch. Aunty Lolo comes in and in less than half of Oris’s words you give away a coupla of spoilers.
      3. You know some of the actors. The End.

  9. Lolo

    January 1, 2016 at 9:41 am

    Final thoughts: @ Toenails/ Author, I actually questioned the (mis) use of the term ‘brave”mean how does one carry out something ”criminally brave’ in quantifiable/qualifiableterms? Feel free to latch on to my analogy, however, it would do you good to use actual quotes from the author as opposed to being generic (in typical fashion).

    The only major spoiler here is the critic (literally) whom I hope will do something more illustrious with his time like: find a unicorn in 2016.

    Last but not least, (if you’d observed), I was silent over the acting – he is entitled to his opinion and lame people like you would latch on to that forgetting I equipped you with it in the first place – out of propriety. Same propriety that leads me to address this pretentious, fluff piece you call a critique. I probably may not come across your work again (thankfully) but dude, get a life in 2016. Don’t try and destroy with a pen what people build with sweat and tears. It’s one thing to critique constructively but another just to be downright cruel just for the kick of it. The use of big words will get you no where either. Happy New Year Abeg!

    • Toenails

      January 1, 2016 at 12:09 pm

      In 2016 Lolo the literate believes a review is ‘downright cruel just for the kick of it’. Nigeria we hail thee!

  10. NR

    April 14, 2017 at 9:26 pm

    Even though there were a lot of differing opinions in the comments section, I almost want to do a dance of joy at the fact that people are actually having greater than grade 1 discussions about nollywood movies. In my mind, this is a win for the industry!

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