It is no news that the bulk of Nollywood films are products of safe filmmaking. Mostly happy romantic tales with lots of jovial scenes, making our films monotonous and tiring. It is this void that makes Coming from Insanity, with all its faults, exciting. It is a story we yearn for but don’t get to see often. A bold, vividly sexy crime thriller on the infamous money counterfeiter, Kossi the Bear. It is compelling. It is bold. It thrills, too. But it fails to reach its full potential.
The film appeals for several reasons, but mostly the audacious choices of its writer and director, Akinyemi Sebastian Akinropo. For a first-time director, Akinropo seems to have lots of guts—treading in places most Nollywood filmmakers won’t dare. It is uncommon to see Hausa girls being vividly erotic and their men wallowing happily at such a sight in our films, but Akinropo has scenes like that and more in his film. It will be interesting to see how far Sebastian can push boundaries in future releases.
Coming from Insanity follows the journey of Kossi (Gabriel Afolayan), from being a domestic help for the Martins, an upper-class young family of four, to a big-time cash counterfeiter. Frustrated from being a poor, disrespected houseboy, Kossi seeks ways to escape poverty by making his own money, literally. He finds a way to do it and he employs a few acquaintances to work with him on creating flawless counterfeit 100 dollars notes which he sells to black market money exchanger.
Kossi’s supplies of fake dollars to the black-market lands him on EFCC’s radar and the case is assigned to a young, determined detective, Toye (Udoka Oyeka), whose relationship is heading for the rocks. The detective’s girlfriend, Oyin (Adedamilola Adegbite), is the only daughter of the Martins; she and Kossi are fond of each other, and it is through her he will be able to narrow the case down to Kossi.
The film kicks off as a boring slow-burner but finishes a thrilling story that captures the Nigerian dream—going from filthily poor to stupidly rich overnight, and it is in this journey that Afolayan charms the viewer; he is intensely vulnerable as the Kossi the poor, shamed houseboy and charismatically happy as Kossi the rich counterfeiter. Good stories always bring out the best of our actors, and this is evident here, another actor who benefits from Akinropo’s compelling screenplay is Bolanle Ninalowo, who delivers a swaggering performance as Kossi’s bodyguard, Rocky.
But while Akinropo’s screenplay is terrific, his directing fails to push this crime thriller to its full potential. We have seen the defective detective trope play many times so you expect a unique, creative approach to it; instead, we are left with a subplot that is never fully explored. Toye never looked like a troubled detective, we just see him drink all the time. Also, Oyin, the intersecting character between the Toye and Kossi, who is at the center of most of the key moments of the film’s final act, was never given much trouble. Hence, what should have turned out the height of the suspense the film pursued in its final act, plays out as a bland cliché. And this is a constant throughout the film; its subplots are never engaging enough to push viewers to the edge.
Yet, for all its faults, Coming from Insanity takes its viewers to a familiar, sentimental place where it is okay to root for a criminal (who life has been unfair to), and the good guys—the Hausa money exchangers that suffer losses from being sold counterfeit dollars—are made to look like the bad guys.