Kemi Adetiba first shared a ‘King of Boys’ teaser on her Instagram page in June 2017. By January 2018, posts of the cast reading their scripts surfaced on social media. Thereafter, Adetiba whet our appetite with behind-the-scenes pictures. Finally, ‘King of Boys’ premiered on 27 October starring Sola Sobowale among others.
Ms Sobowale became a household name in the early 2000s after featuring in the first season of Wale Adenuga’s Super Story titled, ‘Oh Father Oh Daughter.’ She became Nigeria’s loved ‘Toyin Tomato.’ But she soon disappeared from the scene. Sobowale resurfaced in the ‘The Wedding Party,’ the first feature film directed by Adetiba in 2016.
Several cinemagoers said Sobowale was the reason they trooped to the theatres to watch ‘The Wedding Party.’ Adetiba must have also enjoyed working with Sobowale on ‘The Wedding Party’ that she cast her to play lead protagonist in ‘King of Boys.’
For ‘King of Boys,’ Adetiba draws inspiration from the introduction of Nigeria’s whistle-blowing policy and the ensuing events. The characters, Eniola Salami (Sobowale), Akorode aka Makanaki (Reminisce), Odogwu (illBliss) and Gobir (Paul Sambo) are drawn from different tribes; Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa. The characters are all victims of a failed state. Nedu’s character is also a reflection of our reality where criminals often call on God, believing to also be under His protection.
‘King of Boys’ follows the story of Alhaja Eniola Salami who grew up in a brothel and was forced to take on prostitution as a child. But she rises above it to attain businesswoman and socalite status.
Salami is a dotting mother who sells fabrics during the day. But she is the kingpin of the Lagos underworld at night. She has political ambitions. Interestingly, she is denied an appointment by friends like Chief Aare (Akin Lewis) whose bidding she had done. So, Eniola falls back on her underworld dealings. But she had been away too long and Makanaki wants to dethrone her as the ‘King of Boys.’ Salami is guilty of many things but the one time she is innocent, she meets her waterloo.
Power, corruption, gangsterism and feminism are strong themes in ‘King of Boys.’ Feminism is not just reflected in the Salami character but also in Kemi’s (Adesua Etomi-Wellington) and Amaka’s (Sharon Ooja) characters. Amaka gets a resounding applause from the audience for telling Kitan (Ademola Adedoyin) she had paid for her drinks. But corruption strings the themes together, and although Salami is an anti-hero you find yourself rooting her from the moment she tells Makanaki, “I will stretch my hands over your dead body…”
Adetiba makes a bold statement with this film in a market where comedy rules. The visual look, screenplay and makeup particularly stand out. The proverbs in the script enrich the dialogue. The cuts, bruises and spilling of blood are as good as it gets. The makeup artist also did an impressive work with the exhumed corps. The scene were Makanaki reprimands his boy for stealing and asks him to bite the bench is very vivid in our memories. Nobody saw that one coming!
Yet, ‘King of Boys’ is not perfect. The plot quickly unfolds and Salami’s character is established early but the movie is unduly prolonged as though it were a Bollywood film. You expect the final showdown after Salami and Makanaki visit their spiritualists but get an anti-climax. Salami is arraigned by the Nigerian Crimes and Corruption Commission (NCCC) instead. While in detention, the hammer-wielding Salami breaks down too soon. She also let-up easily in the concluding scene where her bar staff is harassed. It would have been interesting if the phone call was to her boys in her new territory. Perhaps, instructing them to handle the guy who harassed her staff – because once a gangster, always a gangster.
There were also a few costume slip-ups. Kemi’s skirt has a costume malfunction in the opening scene were she tries to convince Kitan to come downstairs for the party. As she turns to leave, you see the excess zip from her skirt hanging loose below the slit. Amaka seems overdressed on her first meeting with Kemi. She is visiting her boyfriend; why is she wearing a cocktail dress?
There are inconsistencies too. Gobir, the anti-corruption agent on Salami’s tail, confronts his boss (Sani Muazu) at home and accuses him of corruption. It is unlikely that such a sensitive conversation would hold in the living room. As Gobir begins to spill the beans, the natural move would be to take him into a more private room. And if you kept a close watch on the guest seated beside Fuji musician K1 de Ultimate, you would have noticed the measly plate of food served at Salami’s ostentatious party. Questions are also being raised about how Salami had not been burnt by the time Gobir got to her cell.
In the end, Sobowale might have been the motivation to see this movie but her performance is a bit over-the-top, and her character is tainted by emotions so Reminisce steals the show. To Reminisce, we doff our hats! He was born to play Makanaki.
But we are overscrupulous so we recognise that Adetiba’s directing of ‘King of Boys’ is a notch better than ‘The Wedding Party.’ It is a feather in her cap.
Directed and written by: Kemi Adetiba
Cast: Sola Sobowale, Adesua Etomi-Wellington, Akin Lewis, Paul Sambo, Jide Kosoko, Reminisce (Remilekun Abdulkalid Safaru), Nedu, Ademola Adedoyin, Sharon Ooja, Toni Tones, Ayinde Wasiu aka K1 de Ultimate, Osas Ighodaro.