Moses Samuel, Neye Balogun, Frederick John, Williams Uche- Mbah, Efe Irele, Seun Akindele, Mercy Johnson Okojie, Segun Arinze
A recently married bar owner spends almost 20 years in prison after recklessly killing two teens while driving drunk. On his release he discovers brutal betrayal by the person he entrusted the most.
Patrick 'Koinage' Nnamani
THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS
It’s the impressive elements that are scattered through this movie that makes the whole film seem especially appealing. However, when you step back it might not really be that great. This is probably the reason for the polarizing views about this movie, as most people either hate it or love it with rarely any in between.
In ‘Jon Ajai’, the man Jon, played by Moses Samuel, goes to prison after drunkenly hitting and killing two teenagers with his car. He is sentenced to 21 years in prison and in his time in prison he makes new friends and learns new skills all while trying to get in contact with his wife again. He is visited repeatedly by his friend Amos, played by Seun Akindele, but for some reason his wife does not come to see him. Jon tells Amos about money that he has stashed away for his wife, and tells Amos to tell her not to be worried.
We all know what line this movie is towing – however, I seek to argue that it is not inherently obvious. As the movie goes on (or if you just read the synopsis actually), it is obvious that Amos is trying to steal all that belongs to Jon. But this is not the usual deception you would expect from a story about a backstabbing friend. Usually, the friend would have plotted to get him in prison (this one is for all those drawing allusions to “The Count of Monte Cristo“) and he would have also planned and executed the prison fire himself in order to kill his friend.
In this case we have a sloppy villain who just happens to have fate and ‘good luck’ on his side. It just happened to be that the friend who he envied was driving drunk (even though Amos tried to prevent that), it just so happened that he killed two people, it just so happened that those people were only teenagers, he also just happened to be in a prison in which a bomb goes off. Our villain clearly doesn’t think about the future because if he did he would have had a plan for when/if Jon got released from prison early. What kind of sloppy villain takes 18-19 years and still hasn’t executed his goal? Still hasn’t gotten the money in his name? Still hasn’t won the love of his friend’s wife? And still hasn’t settled into a life of comfort?
The impressive things about this movie are the distinct elements: it is the time that we spend showing Jon’s prison life, the time we show the relationships he builds in the prison and how he dislodges the previous ‘top gun’ of his ward – or maybe it’s just the part of me that wants to see a nollywood version of “Orange Is The New Black” speaking. The impressive things are in the scenery created for 20 years ago, the attempt by the filmmakers to set up a different looking time that is believable, it is in the car that Jon drives in that time as well as the streets that he drives in.
Then there are the things that fall short. You might be tempted to overlook the questionable graphics for the car accident scene but that bomb blast visuals is just inexcusable. And then there is the matter of the performances. Let’s start with Jon’s performance. His character requires a certain strength, which we understand, however he portrays this by being forceful one too many times so much so that his character does not come off as natural. Then there is our wife, Anna is played by Neye Balogun and she has a difficult time convincing us of the authenticity of her emotions. It is good to see Williams Uche-Mbah again even though homeboy still has some honing to do on his acting skills. Segun Arinze and Mercy Johnson make appearances in this movie that can only be called cameos, but even then their presence adds a lot to the feeling of the film.
We loved the underlying themes of varying forms of destruction. Jon was destroyed by alcohol and Amos was vehemently opposed to being destroyed by alcohol so he avoids it. He, however, does not realize that alcohol is not the only thing that can destroy – gambling was his own destruction.
The storyline and the movie as a whole had ample room for improvement in many areas. One of the more glaring would have been using more competent actors in the lead roles and hashing out the vengeance plan more clearly. Regardless, the little part of this movie that succeeded in coming out well did a lot to elevate the value of the film. The movie was on the right path and even if it did not arrive at the final destination of ultimate greatness, what we had in the end is not a failure of any form. We are excited by the ideas that the movie plays with- especially for nollywood prison stories and well thought out vengeance plots. In the end, I guess we can say that the ideas from this movie were maybe more appealing than the actual movie itself.