One of the most interesting developments with Nollywood in the present dispensation is the readiness of her filmmakers to think out of the box and undertake projects that not only challenge hackneyed filmmaking traditions in the country but also borrow progressive techniques from Western filmmaking culture. This rebranded version of Nollywood dates back to Kunle Afolayan’s 2009 supernatural thriller The Figurine, a production whose hallmarks are superb storytelling and cinematography. In 2014, when October 1 was released, it made waves and set the tone for a forward-thinking dimension of the modern psychological thriller genre, with crime and politics involved in the production this time around. Whatever attempts October 1 made at bringing politics and crime together to tell a story set in modern Nigeria, Kemi Adetiba’s King of Boys tried to outdo in 2018 with King of Boys and its 2021 sequel King of Boys: The Return of the King. Bordering on the political crime thriller genre, the franchise is based on a powerful mafia-like matriarchal character who tries to maintain her authority against plots and betrayals. In-between the KOB releases, EbonyLife’s crime drama film Òlòturé (2019) peppered the screens, the story centering on an investigation into the underworld of human trafficking. Now, in the film Hide N Seek, with filmmakers Tolu “LordTanner” Awobiyi and Bode Asiyanbi throwing in some spice, there is an attempt to set another standard of the political crime thriller genre.
While trying to get everyone worked up in a fast-paced, seemingly unending, action-packed run of events, the filmmakers involve characters whose allegiances and ploys are too fickle, shifting so fast that the film leaves viewers confused at some point. High on action and suspense, the film draws similarity with Blood Sisters, a series which would be released a year after. Hide N Seek is based on the story of a shady top government official who is tasked to deliver some ill-gotten money with classified documents to a mafia boss in a hotel at a designated time. The official, who is on the eve of his retirement, fails in the mission as the money goes missing and constantly changes hands amongst greedy people. Everyone around him—his anointed successor, bumbling hotel workers, an intelligence officer, the rest of his entourage—seem interested in the illicit proceeds but their schemes collide until the mafia boss rounds them all up. However, their plans aren’t completely thwarted as they all escape through a stunt pulled off by Officer James, an intervention which could be partly characterized as deus ex machina. Yet the messiah is equally the sacrificial lamb for the escaping group, and his share of the loot goes to his widowed wife. It also appears that the government official does not get the chance to enjoy the retirement he has anticipated, as his health deteriorates rapidly, under conditions that suggest very little chances of survival.
In a forced bid to appear impressive, the film fails to do justice to a plot that overwhelms us with surprises and twists all presented in a limited span of time and place. Most of the scenes are set inside the hotel where the real action takes place, as the director earns commendation for effective spatial management. Similarly, the whole story takes place within twenty-four hours, an artistic concept that is rooted in the Unity of Time, a Western theatrical tradition of the classical era which stipulates that the action of a play should not exceed an entire day. Another technique used in the film is comic relief, provided by the laughable pair Aishat (Bimbo Ademoye) and Chidi (Akah Nnani).
Directed by LordTanner and Adekunle Bryan Oyetunde, Hide N Seek stars Sani Mu’azu, Bimbo Ademoye, Demi Banwo, Efa Iwara, Kunle Remi, Uche Nwaefuna, Jeff Nweke, Fares Boulos, Dibor Adaobi, amongst others. However, most of their characters are sparsely developed, which makes them disposable and dispensable to the plot. Dr Arzika (Sani Mu’aza) is so much in awe of Deji’s (Efa Iwara) intelligence and loyalty that he considers the young man a suitable successor, but the depth of their relationship is not explored. A little more cinematic detail provided in a flashback would have also been expressive enough to justify that. Also, the personality of Kisa Sessay (Jeff Nweke), the top dog in the grand money laundering scheme, remains detractively cryptic.
What Hide N Seek lacks in structural finesse, it makes up for in thematic relevance. Political corruption, money laundering, betrayal and crime are ubiquitous in the film, all of which are issues reconcilable with the modern Nigerian society. In a capitalist society, the bourgeoisie do not only wield great political and economic influence, but also they are perceived as being highly insensitive to the plights of the proletariat. This plays out first in the film in the scene where Dr Azika unflinchingly tells the journalists that the government is not expected to make available to government hospitals oxygen and ventilators. In another scene where Deji mistakenly hits someone, Dr Azika shows no worry or concern for the injured. But as fate would have it later, the aging government official gets a taste of his own medicine, as he gets enrolled in an ill-equipped hospital for his precarious health condition. The film ends on a bittersweet note—evil canceling evil and the scheming, not-so-evil ones enjoying the spoils; while the structural takeaway is the filmmakers’ deliberate segmentation of chunks of scenes into “chapters”.