Netflix’s latest movie from Nigeria is titled The Black Book, and it stars Richard Mofe-Damijo, Ade Laoye, and Sam Dede, among others. When a simple pastor’s son is killed by corrupt cops, the sermon-delivering kind man must seek justice his way after the usual ways of police and the law fail. Offering a view into the corruption and heinous mentality of the ones in power in Nigeria, the movie features sufficient action sequences to keep the audience entertained. Here’s a detailed review of Editi Effiong’s The Black Book.
What Happens In The Movie?
In the bustling city of Lagos, Nigeria, a van is caught in traffic, and the crying baby inside is being shushed by the nanny. Suddenly, multiple armed thugs surround the vehicle and threaten to set the car on fire until the man comes outside. The thugs nab the man, as well as the baby, “for leverage” and also manage to kill four Nigerian soldiers, although one of them is arrested. Interestingly, the very next day, the one captured by the police is released from jail, while the media reports him as having escaped the prison. A woman receives a call from a rather cruel-looking man, who addresses her as “professor” and threatens her to walk away from the protests she’s been doing against corruption in Nigeria. Even after she agrees, the main bad guy kills her baby as well as her husband, just to teach her a lesson.
Elsewhere, a 24-year-old guy is rather excited to have won against his elderly father in swimming, and he rushes off to work, not stopping for his father’s sermon. His father, Paul Edima, is a pastor in a local church, and he goes off to deliver sermons. While on his way back from work, his son decides to drop by Paul’s church after all. However, his taxi is stopped midway by a few men wearing SAKS uniforms, the same ones who’d attacked the vehicle in the first scene, and they drag Edima out. Paul’s son could be passed off as the convict who was released from prison, so Edima is taken to the beach and shot dead. When Paul reaches the site, his son’s blood is still wet against the sand. Having lost his son unfairly, Paul tries to get his body back for burial. The grotesquely corrupt police blame him for the kidnapping of the professor’s husband and baby and declare him a criminal.
Reporter Vic Kalu notices Paul’s hardships and promises to get him the case files, but he refuses her help. Having lost her mother to corruption as well, Vic is hell-bent on seeking justice against all wrongdoers, but Paul wants to handle things by himself. His patience reaches a limit when he witnesses the lack of care by the police, and he ends up injuring two of the cops. Paul is beaten brutally by the same officers who were aware of the whole situation and probably also killed Paul’s son. The next morning, Paul goes home and opens his suitcase. Soon, he starts using his contacts, and before long, he’s got four corrupt policemen bound and gagged in his basement and begins torturing them for information.
When Vic visits Paul’s home, she finds a video recording on his laptop and brings it to her editor. It was video evidence of the corrupt policemen confess to killing Edima’s son to cover up the kidnapping done by a politician’s son and also alerts Angelo, the man who’d killed the professor’s family. However, the editor refused to run the story, because she was in on the dirty business as well. Although Paul didn’t kill the corrupt cops, Senator Dipo, whose son did the kidnapping, is losing his mind in fear because the SAKS men have killed the son of the most lethal weapon in Nigeria. The humble pastor had conducted 23 assassinations and planned and foiled multiple coup d’états, among other talents. To get Paul off their backs, Angelo shoots the cop whom Paul interrogated and blames the murder on Paul.
Paul comes to meet General Issa, a supremely powerful man who oversees all the corruption in Nigeria and someone with whom Paul has had deep ties in the past. Issa offers Paul money, but he wants Angelo, Dipo, and his son to publicly apologize and accept their crimes. Standing at an impasse, Paul goes back but vows to take action himself. Issa hires a cold-blooded hitman who massacres the entire police station and frames Paul for it, while he’s searching for someone named “Big Daddy” in the market because he owed Paul for saving his life. As it turns out, the man who owed Paul had been killed by Issa, and Big Daddy was a female shopkeeper. Issa’s hitman follows Paul into the shop, and he has to escape again, but this time he surprises the ruthless police commissioner bent on catching Paul by breaking into her home. He informs her that not only did he not kill anyone, but also that his son had been framed. The next day, while interrogating the policeman who killed Paul’s son, the commissioner has to watch as the police are shot dead by Issa’s hitman before he can divulge anything else.
Vic goes into the church where her father is also a pastor, and when he’s distracted, she takes some documents, using which she finds out about her mother. She’s heartbroken to learn that her mother, a famous journalist investigating corruption in Nigeria, was shot dead by none other than Paul Edima, who left her at the church with his friend, the Father. Before she can leave the church premises, she’s kidnapped by Angelo, while Issa tells Paul to arrive at Aduna if he wants to see Vic leave. Here’s where things get really interesting: How would one man face the might of one of the most powerful men in Nigeria, who controls everything from the police to the army, and hope to clear the names of him and his son? Watch The Black Book to experience a thrilling action movie that also reveals the corrupted underbelly of Africa’s most populous country.
The Black Book can be viewed as a John Wick-inspired movie from Nigeria because of how a seemingly innocent man becomes a ruthless justice-seeker after his son is murdered for no reason. However, Editi Effiong’s movie goes deeper than the usual fast cars and rapid action sequences because it shows how evil functions in Nigeria. With such crowded cities, a lack of resources, and a paucity of honest people, corruption quickly sets in, and the ones being crushed under it are just the good people. Anyone who tries raising a voice against the hardships is quickly silenced, like the professor’s family, and innocent young men are killed because the criminals hold all the power. The depiction of the social conditions of the country makes one feel thankful that they aren’t currently living in the country. Social conditions aside, the movie in itself is rather fast-paced and keeps the action alive from the get-go.
There aren’t too many dull moments, and it doesn’t feel like a knock-off revenge story, partly because of the protagonist, Richard Mofe-Damijo, and his countenance of deadly seriousness. The General, with his growling voice, appears as a menacing antagonist, while Sam Dede shines once again as the enforcer of the bad guys. Dede is a known face in the Nigerian film industry for being typecast as a henchman, and once again, he manages to earn the ire of the audience with his acting. The script is taut, and the music keeps you on the edge of your seat because every 5 minutes, either someone is dying or a big secret is being unearthed. Most importantly, the climax scene, where Paul goes up against Issa, is a rather exciting moment. Overall, this is a movie that you can definitely enjoy as an action thriller, even if you’re not a big fan of the subtle undertones The Black Book has to offer.