Movie Reviews

Japa! Review:  Nothing But A Misfire

Despite featuring seasoned movie actors, expectations for top-notch performances were not met.

Japa! review
Japa! movie cover [PHOTO CREDIT: Inkblot Productions]

Let’s get into the JAPA! review! The movie is a 2024 Amazon Prime Video release directed by Isioma Osaje, who allegedly just made her debut—now, delving into the concept of ‘Japa’—a Nigerian slang for relocating to other countries for greener pastures. Despite its promising premise of time loop shenanigans, was this movie a calculated risk, or did it miss the mark entirely? The film revolves around Mezu (Jidekene Achufusi), a secondary school teacher eager to leave Nigeria for greener pastures, and his group of friends dubbed the “Japa network.” However, unforeseen circumstances derail his departure plans, setting off a series of events that lead to a time loop predicament.

Plot

In the opening scene of ‘JAPA!’, viewers are thrust into the midst of a school charity fair where Mezu, the main character, is introduced as a teacher. However, the chaotic nature of the scene leaves audiences bewildered within the first five minutes. The abundance of activity and lack of clarity suggest either poor writing or execution, setting a disappointing tone for the rest of the film.

The introduction of Mezu’s colleague and friend, Kamsi (played by Adesuwa Etomi-Wellington), should have injected charm and humour into the scene. Unfortunately, the potential for a delightful on-screen duo is squandered by subpar writing, undermining any hope for comedic relief. In the subsequent scene of ‘JAPA!’, Mezu and his “Japa network” friends gather to celebrate Mezu’s long-awaited opportunity to leave for the United States, following years of unsuccessful attempts. The gathering, intended to be fun and ecstatic, fails to capture the natural camaraderie and humour one would expect from a group of friends in such a celebratory setting. Instead, the scene feels forced and devoid of authenticity, leaving viewers longing for the genuine connection and laughter that should accompany such a significant milestone.

On the day of his long-awaited departure, Mezu’s enthusiasm for relocation is met with a series of unfortunate events. Despite his eagerness to embark on his journey, Mezu finds himself entangled in a web of financial temptations and unexpected obstacles.

Driven by his money-centric nature, Mezu is unable to resist the opportunity presented by Kamsi to earn a substantial sum of money by invigilating the school’s WAEC examination. The unrealistic nature of this proposition leaves viewers puzzled, questioning the logic behind Mezu’s decision. Mezu’s plans to sell his car on the same day add another layer of complexity. At the car dealer, he encounters the grim reality of gangster intimidation and loan shark oppression at the hands of the notorious community of Gangster and Loanshark ZINO. Witnessing the car dealer’s ordeal at the hands of ZINO and his men, Mezu’s day takes a dark turn, dampening his once-happy demeanour.

Following the incident, Mezu continues with his car sale negotiations. However, upon completing the sale, he encounters ZINO’s men on his way out. The robbery scene lacks impact and adds to the disappointment. Worse still, Mezu discovers that his friend’s attempt to repay a loan from ZINO led to his robbery. Despite these setbacks, Mezu must fulfil his commitment to invigilate the ongoing WAEC exams to secure some cash for his journey to the United States.

In a surprising turn of events, the school principal entrusts Kamsi with the money from the charity event to deposit in the bank later that day. Frustrated and desperate, Mezu decides to steal the cash and make his way to the airport, inadvertently triggering a time loop that has him repeating the same day with the same events happening just as he boards his flight. To his astonishment, Kamsi, who is romantically involved with Zino, becomes trapped in the time loop alongside him.

While this twist could have been a pivotal moment in the film, it ultimately becomes its biggest flaw. The transition from a sci-fi premise to a voodoo-themed narrative, with the introduction of Omenala (an Igbo word for tradition) as the force behind Mezu’s misfortunes, feels disjointed and poorly executed. 

After facing numerous challenges during the time loop for over a hundred days, Mezu and Kamsi found a solution by fixing the problems caused by Zino in the community. As a result, Zino gets trapped in the time loop as punishment, bringing the movie to a close. Furthermore, the cinematography in ‘JAPA!’ is characterised by its normalcy, lacking any exceptional or standout moments.

Cast

Despite featuring seasoned movie actors like Jide-Kene, known for his roles in blockbusters such as ‘Living in Bondage 2’ and ‘A Tribe Called Judah,’ and Adesuwa Etomi-Wellington for her roles in ‘The Wedding Party,’ ‘Sugar Rush,’ expectations for top-notch performances were not met. This raises questions about whether the issue lies with the script itself.

A scene from Japa! movie
A scene from Japa! movie [PHOTO CREDIT: Zikoko]

‘JAPA!’ also included actors like Mofe Duncan, who may not have been the best fit for the role of Zino.

Wasiu, played by Layi Wasabi managed to inject some humour into the film, while Tobe, played by Blossom Chukwujekwu, also gave an average performance.

However, Bolaji Ogumola’s perfect portrayal of Zino’s wife, who was being abused and cheated on by Zino, cannot go unnoticed. Bolaji has proven herself one too many times how exceptionally good she is at what she does.

The Veteran actress Chinyere Wilfred’s portrayal of the ‘voodoo priestess’ was also a fair enough performance

While the actors did their best to breathe life into the script, it’s undeniable that the poor quality of the writing overshadowed their efforts.

Language

Throughout the movie, the prominent use of the Igbo language was evident, enriching the narrative with its distinct cadence and cultural significance. From everyday conversations to emotional exchanges, characters seamlessly switch between English and Igbo, reflecting the linguistic diversity of Nigerian society. However, it failed to salvage the overall viewing experience.

‘JAPA!’ emerges as a profound disappointment, failing to capitalise on its intriguing premise and talented cast. While the title promises a relatable exploration of the Nigerian experience, the film ultimately falls short of delivering a coherent and compelling narrative. Viewers are left disheartened by the lack of coherence in the storyline, as unconvincing plot developments undermine the credibility of the film’s central themes. Moreover, the execution of key scenes feels uninspired, robbing the movie of the emotional impact it strives to achieve. As a result, ‘JAPA!’ fails to leave a lasting impression on audiences, ultimately relegating it to the realm of forgettable cinema experiences.

Japa! movie review
3.6
Review Overview
Summary

'JAPA!' emerges as a profound disappointment, failing to capitalise on its intriguing premise and talented cast. While the title promises a relatable exploration of the Nigerian experience, the film ultimately falls short of delivering a coherent and compelling narrative.

  • Costumes 3
  • Casting5
  • Plot3
  • Setting 4
  • Story3
Watch 'Japa!' on Showmax

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