Tade Ogidan was a household name between the late 90s and the early 2000s. He was behind movies like Dangerous Twins, Madam Dearest, Diamond Ring, amongst other daring titles that I remember enjoying with my family. He was so big, that he even released a musical album featuring a number of Nollywood stars that would have surely birthed memes in today’s world. After a long hiatus, the versatile filmmaker returned with Gold Statue in 2019. The film stars Gabriel Afolayan, Kunle Remi, Sola Sobowale, Richard Mofe-damijo, Norbert Young, AliBaba, and a host of others, who make up a star-studded cast.
So, here is a review of the 2019 heist comedy film, that is now available on Netflix.
In Gold Statue, greed leads two friends on an adventure to a maximum prison in search of a long-lost cultural relic. This relic, a gold statue, is thought at first to be worth 500 million dollars, but as the mission progresses, the actual value stands at about 1 billion dollars. Also, the treasure has been thought to be lost (even considered a myth) for years, but luckily, it has only been in the custody of a certain family, and the exact location is known only to a single soul within this generation. When death calls, another person carries the burden of secrecy.
Gabriel Afolayan stars as Wale, who makes it his life mission to recover this highly valuable mythic object. Despite the numerous hurdles— his pessimistic friend, Chike (Kunle Remi); the obscure location, a maximum prison; and failed comical attempts to land in the prison— he remains hell-bent on reaching this billion-dollar target. Moreover, the mystery behind this ‘suicide’ mission is only known to both friends and other parties (investors) who would purchase the treasure after discovery. In the dark, are Wale’s parents, who can not understand how their son has transformed into a car snatcher, an attempt at a crime that eventually pushes him closer to the gold.
The movie starts and progresses reasonably well, providing viewers with most of the film’s ‘natural humour’ in the first part of the movie. I am intent on using this wording— ‘natural humour’— because it tells us that on the other side we have the ‘artificial humour’, which is often a bad sign. Movies are, of course, man-made, but some jokes and comedy fit seamlessly into the narrative which makes it more logical to take in, regardless of relatability. Neither has an average human been to prison before nor has one tried to intentionally become an inmate. But then, the natural state of these early scenes makes it funny as hell.
We visit the ‘artificial humour’ later in the review.
I am not sorry, but the title of this movie makes it so easy to come up with puns and witty sentences, but I will avoid that and focus on my mission (oops, did some certain people forget their mission? You may decide if the pun was intended or not). Back to the review, the first half of the film was a joy to watch; giving us comedy gold in the various failed attempts that Wale goes through to get sentenced to his wish maximum prison, and his non-verbal expressions in a certain court scene which Gabriel Afolayan performs flawlessly.
Early scenes during his sentence still fall in the first half of the movie and his introduction into the prison setting convinced me that I was in for a ride. This is also aided by the production design that went into creating this believable haunted ground. During his sentence, we reach the second half of the movie, and everything that made the first hour successful is thrown out the window, or maybe the brains behind the scenes were just pressured by present-day Nollywood to weave in such elements. And here comes the ‘artificial humour’, the kind of comedy presented in this half, that goes against everything natural. I have never been to a prison before (mentioning it again for emphasis), but we are introduced to certain things that scream “peer pressure”.
Being away from Nollywood for a while, marketing a new project might be tough, but I want to believe that the ‘OGD Films’ (Ogidan’s production company) filmmaker that I know would have sold the movie on word of mouth if it was a more than average one. We often talk about how to market arthouse films in Nigeria, but seems like the power of word of mouth (for quality) is always forgotten. I won’t be quoting any figures and stats related to the film’s theatrical run here, but if the film sustained the pace and drama (infused with natural humour) that it started with, it could have been a more successful movie, I believe. Still, all hypotheses. But for a film that started with a balance of drama and the widely loved comedy, it could have hit a home run. But, the scenes that fill up the second half drag the movie down to the pit (pun or no pun, you tell me). These are scenes that have been intentionally inserted for a purpose, other than being of service to the story.
I really want to make this a spoiler-free review. It will remain one, do not fear.
In this second half, Gold Statue also falls into a very visible dialogue problem. This has always been a struggle for Nollywood, so this is nothing new and isn’t necessarily the film’s downfall. The second half of the movie has more dialogues between larger groups of prisoners, and this makes it straightforward to detect, as they ramble and ramble, without actually saying anything. As the mission progresses, the inmates, who believe they are digging for freedom, are still ignorant about the true goal of the mission. Regardless, conflict brews within the group, in the hopes of raising the stakes and giving viewers something to worry about. In what should further aid the climax, Gold Statue falls flat (pun or no pun, you tell me), doesn’t hit with the right intensity, and ruins what should have been a series of nail-biting scenes, due to the previously mentioned detour that Tade Ogidan possibly borrowed from new Nollywood.
While keeping the crime thriller going on, the mood is kept light-hearted in what I think is even a computer-generated prison, for the exterior at least. Quite brilliant despite some giveaways. Hint: we are moving to the positives once again: The actors boast commendable performances as almost everyone fits their roles, even those in the unusual ones. Sola Sobowale carries the emotional weight in the first half and she steadily conducts our own emotions based on her performance. However, if you are no fan of her loud wails, you might want to watch out for those scenes, which I personally have no problem with. At some point, we realise that the biggest conflict is not even if he lays his hands on the treasure or not, but in how he remains in the maximum prison which his mother doesn’t want for him, or maybe the mother-son dispute just happened to beat out the primary conflict of the gold’s discovery, which you might care less about. To aid the convincing, Sola Sobowale does just right with her ‘iro and buba’ character (let’s call it that).
After the joy derived from the first half of the movie, the second half drags and almost feels like you’re watching a different movie—one fully pressured by modern Nollywood. They try to fix it here and there with some heist-like twists (but people familiar with the genre should already know what’s up) coupled with an amusing manipulation of corruption as a social vice— serving as a lesson on Nigeria’s corruption challenges. But the most fascinating part of the film’s ending is the opportunities that the film has prepared for a possible sequel.
Firstly, the family custodian thinks the boys have made a grave mistake by excavating this gold statue. Secondly, an escaped prisoner feels betrayed because his newly found freedom isn’t enough for his labour, and getting the gold for himself would be a much-worthy reward. While the fugitive’s intentions are quite clear, I wonder what the ancestral custodian’s fears are, could it be something supernatural, which might introduce a modern day Diamond Ring story? Would they go with one of the threads or would both be merged? Nonetheless, a sequel has definitely been promised.
What are your thoughts? Do you agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments section or on our social media accounts.
- I talk about “first hour” and “first half of the movie” quite a lot in this review. Just so you know, it is a 2hr 25min movie. Quite a long one!
- The movie brought back old memories of Sola Sobowale and taking off her wrapper when she’s wailing over a lost child, which I think she also did in Diamond Ring if my memory serves me correctly.
- Wahala Wahala: If they decide to follow the Diamond Ring route in the sequel, the gold statue might be a hard one to return. It stands at possibly 10ft tall.
- “Ade is not a thief”. Lol. Yes, rightly said. Only if she knew the bigger fish he’s gunning for.
- Beyond greed and adventure, there are no genuine motivations for Adewale to organise the heist. He is just an adventurous greedy goat.
- AliBaba’s role in the movie might be his career-best performance so far.
- Basketball in a Nigerian prison? Even if not football, I think board games would have been enough.
- Damn, those drone shots! On point.
- Seeing RMD and Sola Sobowale as a couple, and then Teju Babyface as a TV host at the end, brought back Diamond Ring memories.
- Bronze (insert an object) or Silver (insert an object) should be on Tade Ogidan’s radar as possible future production titles.
Gold Statue is currently streaming on Netflix.