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Oris Aigbokhaevbolo: Imoh Umoren’s Club Attempts to Be Smart But Does Not Quite Succeed

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From its dialogue to its plot, Club, as directed Imoh Umoren has a single ambition: it wants to be smart. It doesn’t quite succeed.

The film treats its viewers to a cold open. We see a man tied to a chair being beaten, receiving the standard incompatible-punch-and-grunt of too many Nollywood films. A politician (played by Saheed Balogun) watches. Something about the violence disturbs him. Well, something about the scene’s shoddily enacted violence and rather bad lighting might disturb the viewer.

Because Umoren’s (and Halima Bakene’s script) come back to this scene later, it turns out the lighting might be an aesthetic choice, as the film takes place around a club. But I can’t think of an excuse for the amateurish handling of violence—not after Eric Aghimien produced a decent stab in the belly in 2013’s A Mile from Home.
A voiceover by the actress Nancy Isime is our guide to the film. Isime plays Pam (which seems a nod to Pam Grier, the American actress famous for her roles in Blaxploitation movies of the 1970s.) Usually a good interpreter of roles, Isime, a little rounder than she was in ‘Gidi Blues’, is hopelessly miscast in Club. Not that she is helped by lines that were probably brilliant hilarious upon their Final Draft debut, but should never be spoken by anyone with a pulse.

The film’s trailer had provided warning, given that risible scene where Isime laughs and says something about bringing a knife to a gun fight: “so cliché”. This scene takes place in a club with bouncers and we are never satisfactorily told how the knife was snuck in. There are many similar incredible turns and wacky lines in the film. Some work, but way too many are clearly the result of a brand of lazy writing that thinks cheek is always its own virtue. Club is camp that doesn’t quite know it is supposed to be camp. It is a bit of a marvel how Isime, whose face seems swollen throughout the film, continued to wrap her mouth around some of her lines.

In any case, Pam is in charge of the club but needs a few millions to treat her sick father. She asks her cartoonish, wise-cracking boss, but gets blown off. At some point during the film, the man asks the apparently celibate Pam, grin in his eye, “When last did you have some nuts?” and then he adds: “Groundnuts”. An early scene has Isime say “she works her ass off” as the camera holds onto her ample bum in a visual pun. In Umoren’s mind, cleverness is next to godliness.

Pam tells us she has a plan and not long after a dead body turns up at the club when a politician is around. Who did it? To be honest, no one should care. Too little is at stake. But the film continues. The body belongs to a supposedly ravishing stripper, who is filmed so bad she is more shell-of-her-self than bombshell. Her irate boyfriend is a suspect, as is a drug selling guy with a grudge against Pam.

These suspects give their self-serving versions of the event. This harks back to Rashomon, Kurosawa’s 1950 adaptation of a Ryunosoke Akutagawa’s short story, but lacks that story’s understanding of human motives. The viewer might care to think that the truth is maybe to be found somewhere within the cluster of tales told to Pam, but the bigger truth is that Umoren’s Club doesn’t earn that thought.

Cut your losses: You gave the film your ticket money; don’t give it your care.

Watch the trailer for Club here:

Photo Credit: Pulse NG

Oris Aigbokhaevbolo is a critic and essayist. His writing on film, books and music appear in The Guardian UK and The Africa Report. He mentored critics at the Durban Film Festival and has attended critic academies in Germany and Holland.In 2015, Aigbokhaevbolo became the first ever winner of the Music/Entertainment Journalist of the Year award (AFRIMA). He tweets @catchoris.

7 Comments

  1. Kandé

    June 14, 2018 at 2:43 pm

    Amazing review/critique.

  2. Phil

    June 14, 2018 at 3:39 pm

    “Isime, a little rounder than she was…” what sort of statement is that?
    What does a woman’s physique have to do with critiquing a movie? Please do better.

    • Dayo

      June 16, 2018 at 4:20 am

      @Phil, depends on if her looks are intrinsic to the movie’s plot lines. is it?

    • Phil

      June 19, 2018 at 10:40 am

      Dayo, I get your point but I don’t think it applies in this context. The writer compared her size in this movie to a previous movie she starred in, no reference was made to how her size affected her role and the overall plot of the movie.

  3. Ekoatheist

    June 14, 2018 at 5:59 pm

    Knew this was a huge L when I saw the trailer. Nigerian films trying too hard to be some bad hybrid of hollywood. Identity crisis.

  4. whocares

    June 19, 2018 at 11:28 am

    this reviewer tried so hard to be smart but didn’t quite succeed. i have never read a review that is as bland as this in my entire life, and this is coming from a person that has read a review on Aki and Pawpaw. Coming from a supposed critic, everything i read here, i could have read from any other person that makes an attempt to describe the movie, and they would have spared me the long essay to boot. The ‘critic’ (and i use this term very scathingly) has even ventured so far as to mention the actresses’ body thrice. the first was to make a tongue in cheek comment in referring to how the actress is “rounder” but is acting in a movie called “clubs”- as if only slimmer people reserve the right to be cast in such role? Considering the actress’s role was the manager of the club (if we were to pursue that asinine critique) i truly don’t understand the logic or point here.
    Then we were ‘blessed’ with another comment referring to the actress’ ‘ample’ bum- although this was in reference to the movie’s pun on the actress working her ass off.. but ample? really? and finally Isimi whose face seems ‘swollen’ throughout the movie? really? So basically you our almighty critic and essayist has dedicated a huge chunk of his time to write a ‘critic’ that fat shames half the time and fill the rest with descriptive nuisance doused in as much vitriolic words as the essayist could google (?). If this reviewer spends less time on the actresses body and more time actually taking the time to focus on the movie beyond the basic maybe he/she would have a lot more to write about and they will be able to provide quality work? I mean, its a movie review yes, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done to a good enough standard? This is shoddy and my brain cells are so angry at me for reading it, i feel them just packing up their belongings in a suitcase as they get ready to depart..

  5. FilmBuff

    November 14, 2018 at 4:19 pm

    As a film critic myself this review was unnecessarily rude and the comments about Isime’s weight are absolutely uncalled for. “It is a bit of a marvel how Isime, whose face seems swollen throughout the film, continued to wrap her mouth around some of her lines.”?? Are you kidding?

    If you want to rant then go to twitter. If you want to critique then you need to be a lot more PROFESSIONAL with the way you use your words. Your criticism should be constructive not abusive.

    Being rude is very different from being honest. Being rude doesn’t make you a good critic. It just makes you sound like a crying baby that needs his rattle.

    Please do better next time.

    Also, Bella Naija, you should review such articles properly before you post them because I can’t believe this article was reviewed and was still posted. This is unacceptable.

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