In 2018, Olivia Pope from Scandal met Annalise Keating from How To Get Away With Murder in Allow Me To Reintroduce Myself, an exciting crossover episode where they both work together to work up a class-action suit. Fast forward to 2021 where we have Devil in Agbada which feels like a crossover of 2019 political comedy Your Excellency and 2018 heist comedy Merry Men but with less impressive results.
Produced by Chinneylove Eze and directed by Umanu Elijah, the movie follows Tomi (Erica Nlewedim), Okikiola (Efe Irele), and Irene (Linda Osifo) who, bound by collective disdain, team up to bring down Otunba Shonibare (Akin Lewis), a ruthless politician who will stop at nothing to get what he wants. It also features Uzo Arukwe, Uche Jombo, Desmond Elliott and Alexx Ekubo.
What’s immediately clear about this film is the lack of technical competence to completely suck the audience into an immersive experience. It opens with a very exciting scene, but that energy soon gives way for what can only be described as a comedy of technical errors. The music is unflattering and absolutely does nothing interesting, the camera work is sloppy and untrained, and the transition of scenes sometimes appear disconnected. There’s even a slow-motion scene that is better suited for TikTok.
Even when you overlook the unfortunate abundance of technical shortcomings, Devil in Agbada is still plagued by Nollywood’s ever-present writing problem. To its credit, it does incredible work on Irele’s character who is impressive as the glue that holds the group together. But that investment is largely lacking for the two other leads played by Nlewedim and Osifo. Character motivations and actions are more a matter of plot convenience than naturally occurring, and the dialogue could have benefited from some more rewrites.
The movie’s saving grace could have been the action scene, but they never truly manifest in any enjoyable manner, even though it’s the film’s whole selling point. A significant portion is devoted to the girls being trained by Machado (Uzo Arukwe) for what is supposed to be a big showdown with their nemesis — Otunba Shonibare and his group of murderous goons. The girls are physically and mentally prepared for this with great anticipation of what is expected to be a spectacular clash. After months of what is depicted as ruthless training, the actual showdown, the film’s climax, ends up as a disappointing and embarrassing mess. It’s Charlie’s Angels, only a lot less fun.
However, for what it’s worth, the film does tackle a few important social issues with pointed commentary on sexual and emotional abuse, abuse of power, and the cannibalistic nature of Nigerian politics and politicians. Devil in Agbada has its head in some of the right places but needs more work to bring all its good ideas to life. It’s a lot of bark, but not enough bite.
Franklin Ugobude is a writer who enjoys covering culture and Nollywood.