In 2016, a Ponzi scheme in disguise of an investment platform crawled its way into Nigeria. It did generate returns for early investors and ripped off many people who invested in the later stage. Kayode Kasum (Sugar Rush) is the director of Ponzi, a Nollywood movie that aims to address a fraudulent money-making route that is widespread in Nigeria, how it is done and why people gullibly fall for it repeatedly. With this movie, the filmmaker’s goal is to tackle this societal norm.
The movie opens with Abeke (Uzoamaka Aniunoh), who plays the role of a narrator and slowly introduces us to other characters that live together in the same neighbourhood. We meet Ikenna (Timini Egbuson), a young man who spends his whole day betting on football matches, and lives with his brother, Uchenna (Debo Macaroni) and his brother’s wife, Zara (Immaculata Oko-Kasum); an ex-convict (played by Zubby Michael); and Chubby (Broda Shaggi), who usually borrows money from the criminal and never finds a way to pay back.
Ponzi follows the story of a rich politician, Chief Olaoba (Jide Kosoko) who recently found his long lost American son, Robert (Mawuli Gavor). Somewhere in the movie, Chubby, the habitual debtor, is subjected to public harassment and torture for not paying his debt. It is during this exact scenario that Robert steps in and plays the role of a messiah by paying Chubby’s debt and even splashes a few wads of cash to pay for people’s food. This scene is pivotal to the understanding of the Ponzi concept because by doing this, Robert is seen as a saviour and is able to earn their trust. Perhaps, the saying “an apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” even comes to mind— since he is the son of a former politician who embezzled public funds while in office.
With things falling into place, Robert introduces the people in the hood to an investment scheme known as ‘Reachvest’. However, just like the numerous Ponzi schemes that have come and gone, Reachvest only lasts for a while before folding up. Other problems in the movie resurrect as a result of Reachvest’s abrupt dissolution. Ponzi would have been an excellent movie if it had a sequence of events. The movie addresses the style and alarming rate at which Ponzi schemes are eating deep into Nigeria, however, it lacks the unification or harmony of characters and events to do justice to the issue presented. There is no logical flow of events; some of the scenes contribute nothing to the plot of the movie, making it look disjointed. Even an introduction of a romantic relationship between Ikenna and Abike does nothing to drive the plot nor does it add anything to the plot build up.
An hour into the movie, I still could not understand what the movie is all about except from the hint clearly indicated in the title. Hollywood movies like The Wolf of Wall Street, Catch Me If You Can, The Hoax and others which delineate the concept of fraud, make a movie like this ‘clown show’ a slap to movies categorised under a similar genre. Nothing seems right about the movie, from the execution of Rob’s fraudulent scheme to the most ridiculous heist I have ever seen in my movie-watching history. The heist in the movie already looked like a failure before it was executed. Although the security agents were on vacation, how plausible is it that there were no back up security agents or even a gateman at the house of a former Nigerian politician? I believe even a kid will question the plausibility of such. The scenes of the heist screamed absurdity.
The movie’s plot was all over the place with over the top comedy. Ponzi is a perfect example of ‘making internet comedy skits does not equate to acting film roles’. At a point, I was almost convinced that there was neither a script editor nor a director guiding the movie, almost like they just handpicked some Nollywood stars and instructed them to do whatever they wanted. I do not know the literary interpretation (that is if there is one) for the absence of a narrator in the middle of a movie. The movie starts with a narrator, who happens to be Robert’s sister, she sets the movie in motion, then somewhere along the line, she disappears— only to appear at the end of the movie with a preposterous closing remark: “the moral of the story, do not be a maga. Next chapter, Bitcoin”.
I am still fazed with how the director was comfortable with such a ludicrous ending. After everything that had happened in the movie, and considering how the victims chose to invest with people they trust, why did the narrator find it important to remind viewers to “not be a maga” rather than advising people not to scam others of their hard-earned money? This ends the supposed parable like it is telling victims of armed robbery not to get robbed rather than warning wrongdoers to deter from robbing people.
- Ponzi set out to remind thieves or intruders not to take a cook along for a heist. A very interesting scene in the heist where Tafa, the suya guy, sees a recipe book during their robbery, then stops to take pictures of a few pages with an android phone, which I am sure has something called ‘Google’. Lest I forget, when his colleagues finally beckon on him, he decides to just take the recipe book— such a smart guy.
- Our Nollywood Model Checklist tally
An aerial shot of a road in Lagos:
Instagram/Internet superstars (that cannot act): ✅
Sloppily placed ads:
A handful of standout actors:
A sprinkle of old Nollywood actors:✅
A novel idea ruined by poor execution:✅
Ponzi is currently in theatres nationwide.