LIONHEART NIGERIAN MOVIE REVIEW
By Morris Abdul Newton
Dir: Genevieve Nnaji
Starring: Chika Okpala, Genevieve Nnaji, Jemima Osunde, Kalu Ikeagwu, Kanayo O Kanayo, Nkem Owoh, Onyeka Onwenu, Pete Edochie, Steve Eboh, Yakubu Mohammed, Sani Muazu 95mins
So someone had to pioneer the Netflix original film for Nigeria and I’m partially glad that Genevieve Nnaji is the one that achieved the mantle fell upon. Now, that is just my sentiment out there. Let’s get to the weightier matter of what was produced in honor of this landmark.
“Lionheart,” name itself being metaphoric, is the tale of a family and its transport company of the same name. The company is headed by Chief Obiagu (Lionheart) and his daughter, Adaeze. Chief Obiagu is forced to vacate his position due to health issues in the face of competition. His daughter, Adaeze, believes she is “ready” to step in to prove her worth and steer the ship of this male dominated industry in the face of opposition; but is she ready?
That’s literally the story line except for a few touches here and there. Chief Obiagu (Pete Edochie) brings in his brother, Chief Godswill (Nkem Owoh) to guide the affairs of the company in his absence while Adaeze (Genevieve Nnaji) seethes privately at the thought that her dear father doesn’t trust her to take the mantle just yet.. The idea reminded me of how Nollywood tells this kind of family stories rich in cultural properties. However, the breath of fresh air is in the reversal of the roles employed here as we find an interesting mentor rather than a rival in Adaeze’s Uncle. That was one good twist on the story, otherwise, it would have been same old, same old.
The opening scene of this film was clear, but weak. The lines of dialogue, as we find out in most part of the film, are weak and that ensures that we don’t have a befitting start though the setup was good enough. Certain scenes were crowned with lines of dialogue but unfortunately the dialogue, most of the times, turned up weak.
A presentation delivered by Adaeze in the beginning to investors is supposed to be massive with displays of know-how and grandeur but it turns out a weak, basic presentation which is sadly hailed by the characters just because the script said so. Nothing shines through.
I must say to a large extent, that these two instances were significant representations of what we experienced through the movie. Not saying there isn’t good stuff but the start of a thing is a strong indication as to where it is going to and unfortunately, this one lived up to that tag.
The acting is good enough. The veterans, Pete Edochie, Nkem Owoh, Onyeka Onwenu, Kanayo O. Kanayo etc. did their thing with what they were given. A couple of actors or non-actors did badly though. An example is the “actor” that played the General Manager of LionHeart over the few times he appeared. The man turned up so stiff that it looked like he was being paid to be stiff. Exhibit B on the actor’s stand is Jemimah Osunde who took on the role of Adaeze’s P.A. It’s obvious why she was cast as the P.A, still, some of her issues with role interpretation were visible. Looking like Genevieve’s double had its merits. For instance, it worked perfectly for the prison scene but that scene was also unfulfilled as it was only used as an effect and nothing more.
The cinematography was sparkling as the dusty hue employed by the cinematographer drew nostalgia for those that haven’t been to the East of Nigeria for a long while. It is perhaps an apt representation of the look and feel of our story world.
A couple of continuity issues are evident just as sometimes the camera positions did not sit well with the characters on the screen. One of the major gaffes in this movie was the weakness of the villain. Igwe Pascal (Kanayo O Kanayo) who runs a rival outfit does literally nothing in the entire film. He simply just leeches instead of scheming. At some point he was off our screen for so long that we actually forgot that there was supposed to be some sort of opposition till he showed up again to do his bit as a leech as the script dictated.
With the way Chief Obiagu’s sister was introduced, I thought she would be used for something important. Alas! She wasn’t. Just made me wonder what all the fuss was for. Another character that was almost of no use was Adaeze’s brother (Phyno).
Chief Godswill’s availability sort of doused Adaeze’s potency in the story to an extent. We can see why he’s there as he helped build the main character, eventually, but at the same time his presence had a counter effect; dousing the main character as she seemed weak for most of the time. Futhermore, Adaeze’s outbursts and frustrations where not genuine enough.
The issues with the story execution is evident in some instances and one of those is in Adaeze touting Arinze (Peter Okoye) as a good man to her Uncle before going to see him for money to bail out Lionheart. It was then amazing when she rejects his money even when he promised to give her such a huge sum that would have more or less ended the crisis they were in and in turn ended the movie. Instead, she ran off for no apparent reason. We can’t say Arinze was demanding for anything because he didn’t even show that he was and remember she said he was a “good man.” I just couldn’t understand that scene just as I couldn’t why Chief Godswill would roam that deep into a compound he doesn’t know. It didn’t seem realistic. It was all just conveniently setup for the story that was going to unfold.
A number of things in the second and third act of the film didn’t sit well and it’s mostly hinged on the fact that we are dealing with a rookie director here. There were some shot instances and choices that were just off. One of them again was when Adaeze spoke with the head of Maikano transports; one would not have expected a voice over but that is what we got for a moment. That was unacceptable.
After all said and done, Sound was good and clear, Cinematography was splendid, story was just alright with steps taken towards the resolution, though somewhat uninspiring i.e. Adaeze’s morning jog that took her to a bus terminal, scribbling on the board etc., weren’t totally disappointing.
For Genevieve Nnaji’s directorial debut, she did an okay film and though the lion didn’t roar as expected on our screens, it made sure it did with its Netflix deal. Business done.