A cocktail of big budget, popular stars and comedy in Nollywood is mostly a recipe for disaster, mainly because such films are cash grabs with little to no artistic value. But Tade Odigan, the Nollywood veteran who blessed us with the cult classic, Diamond Ring, has no interest in swimming in this sea of mediocrity. Gold Statue, his first film in 9 years, is a comic masterpiece filled with suspense and a group of stars whose talents are harnessed optimally.
Gabriel Afolayan and Kunle Remi play Wale and Chike, two college roommates who have decided to spend their service year on a dangerous adventure to find a gold statue worth 500 million dollars. It all started with a lecture in school in which the lecturer discussed the history behind this statue, its worth, and the people who know its whereabouts. Wale tells Chike his family are the custodian of the statue and hence his grandpa knows the whereabouts of the artifact.
Wale enlists the help of his school father in secondary school, who now works with a museum in the US, to help them pinpoint the exact location of the statue. His research revealed the statue is located under the Ilesha prison. Hence, the only way to get the Gold Statue is to go into the prison. This kicks off their dangerous adventure; Wale goes on a stealing spree to get himself jailed. A few minor thefts did not do enough to land him in jail so he decides to steal a car.
He got caught and was almost burned alive by a mob in a well-directed jungle justice scene that introduces us to the magic Odigan has in store for us. First, there is the terrific makeup job that convincingly portrays Gabriel Afolayan’s Wale as someone that has been beaten up within an inch of his life. The acting here is energetic, and it is the only scene in which we see Kunle Remi’s acting as his character tries to save his friend from the mob; he continuously appealed but failed to convinced the mob to report Wale to prison rather than serve him mob justice. The most remarkable thing about this scene is the comical element amidst the seriousness; this is something Odigan’s script will manage throughout the film.
Finally, Wale gets his jail term and his sidekick Chike applies successfully to be a youth corper in the same prison. And just like every dangerous adventure, there is a new hurdle to overcome after every success. This hurdle is surviving in a maximum prison with serious criminals. This is where Sola Sobowale comes in, reuniting with RMD as parents of a good child gone rogue on another Tade Odigan’s film, almost 20 years after Diamond Ring. Although in a limited role, Sobowale feels more at home with this script—it is perfect for her melodramatic acting. She plays the distraught Wale’s mum who is completely stunned and confused about her son’s actions—similar to her character in Diamond Ring who was equally shocked that her son will steal a ring from a dead woman. To protect her son from his new housemates, she sends food and drinks to them, thereby making Wale the darling of the leaders of the prison gang. It is this relationship that will allow him to approach the leader about an escape plan by digging a tunnel under the prison; although unbeknownst to the other prisoners, this is also a plan to dig out the Gold Statue.
The series of event that followed this escape plan is a comic adventure that provokes riotous laughter thanks to witty dialogue and excellent performances from the cast. Odigan, who doubles as screenwriter and director, is aided by his terrific script in getting strong performances from his cast. From the main protagonist, Gabrial Afolayan, who delivered with acute intensity to supporting cast including Kevin Ikeduba, Yvonne Jegede, Woli Arole, Nobert Young, and Olakunle Fawole. Fawole’s Banju (one of the inmates) together with Nobert Young’s Anter (the deputy warden) delivered one of the film’s best set pieces; an intricate sequence with well-setup false suspense that paid off excellently.
But the film’s true star is Kevin Ikeduba, who plays OC, the deputy prison gang lord; he lights up every scene he appears in with witty one-liners delivered with a straight or deadly gaze in a performance that’s well deserving of an AMCVCA nomination for actor in a supporting role. Also, we got to see Wole Ariole’s comic talents used brilliantly; unlike other Nollywood comedies he has been in, he is not acting a skit, but delivering a performance worthy of his talents thanks to the guidance of a brilliant director.
All the credits go to the Odigan himself, his script is a fresh breeze of excellence that’s absent in Nigerian blockbuster comedies. The film features a train of characters and it is lengthy at 2 hours 25 minutes, but you do not feel the weight of the cast neither will you tire from its long duration because this gripping adventure is written to make you fall in love and cheer its characters on. And even when Odigan tackles other subjects such as jungle justice, millennials wanting things easier, or the undying love of a mother, he doesn’t come out as preachy; instead, these elements are sewn so seamlessly in the movie that they never feel out of place.
However, Odigan does this movie a disservice with amateurish graphics work in a scene that depicts Wale and Chike’s overseas partners in Dubai; their images are superimposed on a supposed hotel room in Dubai in a very cartoonish, old-Nollywood manner. Nigeria cinema has come a long way from such cartoonish graphics- we have had outstanding CGI works in films like God Calling, and I wonder if it is budget, lack of expertise or disregard that allowed this. It is reminiscent of the technical-know-how deprived Nollywood from which Tade Odigan comes from. The other mishap here is Gabriel Afolayan’s wobbly Calabar’s accent; it might have fooled his fellow inmates, the head warden, and others, but not the viewer. But these mishaps do not stop the fun, they are just an anomaly in this Nollywood comic tour de force.