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Considering it had a budget hundreds of times smaller than Fast & Furious, this sequel to last year’s top Nollywood grosser, Merry Men: The Real Yoruba Demons, makes a reasonable stab at being a Nigerian version of the Hollywood action-film franchise. Said merry men are four Lagos playboys who are showing dangerous signs of shrugging off their roguish pasts and settling down, when Abuja politician Dame Maduka kidnaps one of their wives and blackmails them into jacking crucial evidence in her forthcoming graft trial.
You couldn’t call Merry Men 2 stunningly original, but director Moses Inwang and producer Ayo Makun (who had a hand in several top-end 2010 Nollywood films and also stars in this film) have studied the Fast & Furious handbook. Inhabiting that just-in-the-movies crossover between the criminal fringe and sexy high-stakes espionage, the film ticks off flashy jump-cut hotel-foyer entrances, shameless consumerism and shady paramours coming back from the dead, then slaps a family-values rosette on top. Tonal swerves from thriller to comedy aren’t any wilder than those between Vin Diesel and Ludacris, even if the film doesn’t quite have the same level of control a multimillion-dollar screenwriter buys you. It’s not so easy keeping up the tension in a central standoff scene when there are three laser dots hovering over one character’s penis.
There are encouraging signs here that Nollywood is upping its action game, at least as far as realising how quick editing can cover for a multitude of staging sins. Which is lucky, because Inwang has no idea how to mount a dialogue scene, a series of lugubrious exposition-fests gradually tranquillising the film. Key newsflash in many is corruption and who gets the rightful share of the “national cake”. A higher share possibly needs to go into arts funding, with the acting still awful across the board. Only in broad Nollywood comedy mode does it feel truly convincing. Seeing suave superstar Ramsey Nouah decked out as a pig-dangling villager is a reminder that sometimes it’s best to keep it rural.
• Merry Men 2 is in UK cinemas on 27 December.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Merry Men 2 review – low-budget Fast & Furious-style shenanigans | Action and adventure films