Gangs of Lagos is expert filmmaking from Nigeria

First Amazon-financed film from Africa is reminiscent of ‘Children of God’

Gangs of Lagos
Where: Prime Video
What: Movie, 125 mins.
When: Fri., April 7
Genre: Action
Rating: NNNNN (out of 5)
Why you should watch: Brilliant filmmaking from the first Amazon-financed film from Africa. The riveting, action-packed film is reminiscent of Brazil’s Children of God in its gritty depiction of gang life and redemption in the slums of Lagos, Nigeria.

GANGS OF LAGOS IS BRILLIANT, action-packed filmmaking and, as the first African film financed by Amazon, a promising taste of the future as the mega-corp helps spread the reach of Nigeria’s acclaimed and prolific Nollywood filmmakers.

Director Jadesola Osiberu masterfully leads a stellar cast with a remarkable lead performance from Tobi Bakre as Obalola, a well-meaning young man living in the rough and impoverished Isale Eko neighbourhood of Lagos. Obalola is a smart kid who catches the eye of a local gang leader. We follow Obalola’s rise in the gang as he wrestles with the moral compromises that help violently propel him to the top.

The film follows Obalola and his friends into adulthood as he dreams of eventually moving to America all while manoeuvering gang politics and lethal rivalries. It’s a riveting, action-packed story and a captivating window into how a community constructs itself even within an often-deadly setting.

Female characters are also strong in Gangs of Lagos, and they kick ass too with Adesua Etomi-Wellington as Gift, Obalola’s friend and literal partner in crime.
The cast is uniformly strong with even the youngest performers having the confident chops of veteran actors.

The film is reminiscent of Brazil’s Children of God in its unflinchingly raw and respectful depiction of life on the mean streets of a city with huge financial inequity and few prospects for advancement, besides crime.

Gangs of Lagos is Tarantino-like in its operatic depiction of violence, with crisp, confident battle scenes that are majestic and horrifying all at once. The production values are as high as films with significantly larger budgets.

The cinematography is amazing and the shots of life in Lagos are revelatory. Despite producing thousands of films a year, few Nigerian films have made their way to North American audiences. Hopefully, excellent films like Gangs of Lagos will shine a light on this neglected hotbed of movie-making.