Movie Reviews

Shanty Town Review: Crisp And Violence, To What End?

Shanty Town seems to further the usual recurring narratives and themes in recent Nollywood dramas. Anything new?

Shanty Town [Culture Custodian]
Shanty Town [Culture Custodian]

A core rule that governs drama that incurs appraisal or invalidation is the level of verisimilitude and plausibility. On this Shanty Town review, we attempt to examine every tiny detail of the Nollywood movie. To break it down, verisimilitude would mean the extent of similarity to what is real and plausibility would mean the possibility of how true the reality presented is. This rule is fundamental and unconsciously resides in the viewership assessment of most literary works, in this case, a movie.

It is with this background and other important yardsticks that Shanty Town, a Netflix series, co-written by Xavier Ighorodje and Donald Tombia and created by Ighorodje and Chichi Nworah is assessed.

Shanty Town is a story of lives in Shanty Town and vices that have been turned into forms of service to political clouts. Inem (Ini Edo) seeks to bring criminals to justice by avenging her twin sister; she returns to Shanty Town. Scar (Chidi Mokeme), a pimp and drug dealer controls the Shanty Town network but also answers to the Kingpin, Chief Fernandez (Richard Mofe Damijo). Chief Fernandez desires the Lagos State gubernatorial position with a daring opponent, Dame Dakota  (Shaffy Bello). He asks Scar to shut down his illegal activities, inadvertently disrupting Scar’s livelihood. Dame Dakota offers Scar a better chance at life under the condition that Chief Fernandez is forced to end his political ambition. Shalewa (Nancy Isime) is sent as bait and the movie climaxes.

Movies such as King of Boys, Oloturé, Blood Sisters, and Brotherhood share obvious similarity with Shanty Town portraying themes that include sexual harassment and torture with a special note to BSDM, thuggery, kidnapping, unveiling the underworld, godfatherism, prostitution, female victimization to mention but few. These recurring themes show the absence of novelty in exploring African stories. 

The Plot

The plot chronologically explains the movie from the village invasion to life in Shanty Town. At the end of the first episode, the question that comes to mind is, why is this movie in episodes? It is not enough to sustain the prolonged interest which is the norm associated with a series. There is confusion as to if the story centres on the lives of prostitutes seeking freedom from Shanty Town or the ambition of Chief Fernandez.

Shanty Town is a town for drug dealers, prostitutes, and thugs. A town where crime has its throne. These vices in persons are not thoroughly explored other than their dependence on being used by a political figure. The life of Inem is briefly glossed over and replaced by the good things said of her by characters like Jackie (Mercy Eke) and Mama T (Sola Sobowale) meanwhile she is the core of the movie as intended by the prologue. 

Until Inem made the call, ‘I’m in’ that was when I got the gist, not in full though; it got me but not a suspenseful one. Also, I’m yet to fathom the essence of  Inem’s thievery. This is supposed to be a DSS agent, who ought to have thought through the causative result of her actions. At that point, coupled with dealing drugs and getting raped the movie tries to elevate the danger Ini Edo is in, but it only shows a random infusion of fear and pity in the heart of the viewers. For instance, the scene where Ini Edo shouts at Uche Jombo who’s the DSS head for the operation in an emotional outburst  seems out of place and did not portray reality. A pattern in the movie  that shows dialogues and actions are not thoroughly thought out. 

It is in this pattern of disjointed thoughts, having seen the scenes of violence, propel the  questions, ‘ why?’ ‘To what end?’ For this sort of movie, portraying brutality at its peak isn’t pragmatic or appealing. Jackie’s butchery and Scar’s stabbing scenes are gross graphics of violence.

Notably, a point of attraction for viewers, young and adults alike is the nude scenes. These scenes are existential in reality, especially in the frame of sex work but Shalewa’s nude scene is unwarranted and the purpose entirely unrelated to the course of the movie. You’d think that Shalewa and Chief Fernandez would cross paths again with a spark from Femi, Chief’s son, (Peter Okoye) but that never happened. It is amazing that Femi could not properly say a Yorùbá phrase in conversation with Scar and he is portrayed as a Yorùbá man; his Igbo intonation is obvious. This contrast is confusing, it simply spells ”Nollywood audiences would accept whatever is given to them”. It’s a negligence in the aspect of casting. 

The Cast

The casting of the movie reveals a list of great actors who are renowned for their exceptionality and professionalism. The cast delivered but the prowess of some actors is underutilized. We didn’t get to see much of Zubby Michael, Uche Jombo, Ali Nuhu (Accountant), and Omowunmi Dada. Dame Dakota’s introduction to the movie adds to and heightens the conflict. It also leads to the resolution, a convenient and expected one. 

Talking about acting, the combat in the last episode gives a possible assumption that the characters in combat must have been hired for the scene. They fought for minutes and I was wondering the purpose; it seems like an adaptation of a Hollywood action movie. The mode of exit of Uche Jombo and Ini Edo after the fight is quite funny and unnecessary. 

With the blessing of digital innovations and advancement, the story of cinematography has progressed into a contemporary worthy acceptance from digital consumers. Owing to exposure, Nigerian movie audiences seem to appreciate crispy digital documentation of films and the Nollywood industry also has its quiver full of them. Quite a match. 

Shanty Town falls into this category of eye-pleasing movies whose production is top-notch. Other than the obvious, the skill of projecting themes and insight into the movie through the camera lens evades the scenes in Shanty Town

The costumes and wardrobe managers did great, and the setting perfectly soothes the movie. 

Language

The use of indigenous languages in the movie; Ibibio, Igbo, and Yoruba cannot be unnoticed. The passionate dialogue in Ibibio between Inem and Ene wears the hat ‘Proudly Nigerian’ on the movie. 

According to Horace’s Ars Poetica, art should teach and delight. It is left to the viewers to answer to what extent Shanty Town, season one is enjoyable and educational. 

Shanty-Town [Business Day NG]
7.2
Review Overview
Summary

Shanty Town falls into this category of eye-pleasing movies whose production is top-notch. Other than the obvious, the skill of projecting themes and insight into the movie through the camera lens evades the scenes in Shanty Town. 

  • Costumes8
  • Casting8
  • Plot6
  • Setting8
  • Story6
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