Niyi Akinmolayan is the director of the Nigerian movie, “The Set Up.” If you have seen “The Arbitration” you cannot but wonder if Akinmolayan dabbled into directing “Chief Daddy” to gain more popularity, by riding on the back of EbonyLife Films. But with his latest thriller, Akinmolayan seems to have retraced his steps and got his groove back.
Akinmolayan collaborates with Anakle Films, Film One and Inkblot Productions for “The Set Up.” He also brings on board another previous collaborator, Chinaza Onuzo, as screenwriter and producer.
The film begins in the year 1998. Adesua Etomi-Wellington stars as Chike Eke. And Kehinde Bankole as Grace. Chike and Grace are besties. But they are dissimilar. Grace is as meek as a lamb while Chike is a tough cookie. As children, Chike looked out for Grace.
Chike did not have the best upbringing or role models. But she managed to make a life for herself outside the slum. On the contrary, life remained unkind to Grace. At the time, Chike’s line of work was equally ignoble. But it was less demeaning than what was on the table for Grace. So, Chike took her friend in.
All goes well with the ladies until they get a visit from a strange woman called Enitan (Tina Mba). Enitan runs The Academy. At first glance, The Academy looks like a private members’ club. At other times, it seems like a girls’ cult. But it is neither. Rather, it is home to con artists. Enitan is Chike and Grace’s stay-out-of-jail-free card. Left with no choice, they become Enitan’s right-hand women.
Edem (Jim Iyke) contracts The Academy to assist him with his scheme to marry Motunrayo Elesho. Dakore Akande portrays Motunrayo. And she is heiress to the Daraja empire.
“The Set Up” is Akinmolayan’s fourth film starring Etomi-Wellington. And the two seem to have identified a winning formula. They tapped into once again and it makes Etomi-Wellington the star of the movie. She is believable as the feisty and tomboyish Chike. For the 103 minutes duration of the film, she holds the audience. Alongside Bankole, they make a good pair. And they complement each other.
The film’s director has also worked with Joke Silva and Mba previously. Silva in “Chief Daddy” and Mba in “Meet the In-laws.” Both women give strong performances. But perhaps what is more gladdening is seeing Ms Mba as the sophisticated Enitan. She has been much too relegated to playing the role of mother. As such her versatility has been inadequately tested. She delivers her role easily. Her first showing in “The Set Up” is especially memorable. Not just how she commands authority in Chike’s home. But also how she struts out of the premises.
Also among the beauties of this film are the music by Gary Jones Ossai and top class locations. The soundtrack is used to set the appropriate mood. But the greatest strength of Akinmolayan’s film, “The Set Up” is the story. It stands out for its unpredictability. That is a rarity in Nollywood. The storytelling is non-chronological. And the director employs flashbacks to reveal plot twists. His use of the technique is clever and worthy of note. Despite these, Akinmolayan’s film, “The Set Up” is poorly set-up.
The scene set outside the night club was very unimaginative. The scripting from the moment Motunrayo is accosted by the police to when she hitches a ride with Chike is very pedestrian. The dialogue is utterly ridiculous. The treatment of that scene could certainly have been better. And as a result, an otherwise brilliant story is weakened. Onuzo also took the easy way out in a couple of other scenes. Notably, the transfer of shares and escape from the law enforcement agents. Those events were overly simplistic.
The story explores friendship, family, loyalty and betrayal. When “The Set Up” begins, there is a lot of motion without movement. However, by the time the conflict has been established, Onuzo finds his rhythm. Thereafter, the movie truly becomes intriguing. When all is said and done, Akinmolayan’s film, “The Set Up,” is not flawless but as far as Nollywood goes, it is in a league of its own. It will certainly make the list of Nollywood’s 2019 bests.
“The Set Up” was released in theatres on 9 August and it is showing nationwide.
Directed by: Niyi Akinmolayan
Cast includes; Adesua Etomi-Wellington, Kehinde Bankole, Tina Mba, Jim Iyke, Joke Silvia, Kelechi Udegbe, Ayoola Ayolola