Shanty Town is a massive testament to how much Nollywood actors have grown by perfecting their craft.
Movie title: Shanty Town
Date of release: 20th January 2023
Runtime: average of 30 minutes per episode
Director: Dimeji Ajibola
Cast: Richard Mofe-Damijo, Ini Edo, Chidi Mokeme, Nse Ekpe-Etim, Shola Shobowale, Shaffy Bello, Ali Nuhu, Uche Jombo, Zubby Michael, Nancy Isime, Yaw Naija, Omowunmi Dada, Mercy Eke, Shola Sobowale, Regina Daniels, Judith Audu and Peter Okoye.
Have you ever watched a film and said to yourself, ” Only if more attention were paid to details, then this movie would be mind-blowing?”
From the stables of the popular streaming platform, Netflix, comes Shanty Town, an action-packed drama series that explores the lives of sex workers, gang leaders, and corrupt politicians in Lagos.
Being the first original Netflix project of 2023, there were huge expectations placed on the six-part series.
In addition to the teaser materials and cast announcement, the premises of Shanty Town alone were enough to keep our fingers crossed in anticipation of some thrilling Nigerian drama.
Following its release, Shanty Town can be easily described as mid-scale. Apart from the excellent acting performances, the series lacks a sense of originality and seems like a good example of what happens when the stories of Oloture, King of Boys, and Blood Sisters are merged into one.
A flashback takes us to the Shangisha community, where we see a mother and her two daughters running away from some bandits. Unfortunately, as they are about to escape, one of the daughters gets shot.
Today, we see a ruthless leader named Scar (Chidi Mokeme), who handles several shady deals. Also, he s regarded as the king of a community called Shantytown. We see him talking to the accountant (Ali Nuhu), a representative of a higher authority.
After the meeting between Scar and the accountant, Scar goes to a party held for Jackie (Mercy Ike), a soon-to-be former prostitute in Shanty Town.
At her freedom party, Jackie proposes the idea of gaining freedom to Shalewa (Nancy Isime), another sex worker and friend. Shalewa is ecstatic at the prospect, and she is overjoyed when Jackie promises to loan her the money.
Things don’t go as planned when Scar reveals that Shalewa owes more than she thinks.
Meanwhile, another character, Inem (Ini Edo), is released from prison. We are made to know that she was once a sex worker in Shanty Town but left due to the role she played in a drug crime.
In the second episode, the person Scar is working with is finally revealed to be Chief Fernandez (Richard Mofe-Damijo), a politician. With the elections coming up, Chief Fernandez asks that Scar cut back on some of his illegal activities, which doesn’t sit well with the crimelord.
On Scar’s way back to Shanty Town, he murders an unsuspecting Jackie and is kidnapped by the Governor, Dame Dabota (Shaffy Bello), who proposes a plan.
To execute his plan to destroy Chief Fernandez, Scar enlists the help of Shalewa, who has established a form of connection with Chief Frenadez’s son, Femi (Peter Okoye).
In a bid to speed up the process of having Femi be the downfall of his father, Scar gives Shalewa a charm to use on the man.
Subsequent episodes bring shocking revelations, as Inem is an undercover agent who wants to avenge the death of her twin sister. g were the two sisters at the beginning of the movie.
Inem decides to liberate Moji (Nse Ekpe-Etim) and the other ladies of Shanty Town by plotting a plan to get rid of Scar.
During a lunch date, both Femi and Shalewa are abducted by Dame Dobota and taken to a hideout. After several attempts to kill Chief Fernandez, chaos ensured both parties attackedtheattackkily; Chief Fernandez escaped. However, his victory is short-lived when he is arrested.
Shanty Town is a massive testament to how much Nollywood actors have grown by perfecting their craft. The acting performances delivered by the cast were truly professional and had a stimulating effect on viewers.
Where do we even begin? Is it Chidi Okoreme sending chills down our spines through the role of Scar, Ini Edo making us root for Inem due to her versatility, Mercy Eke, who, despite being given few scenes, made us fall in love with her and cry when Jackie died, or Shaffy Bello, who doesn’t deliver the lines but adds subtle social cues to make them more believable?
The cinematography is another excellent feature of the film. The amount of expertise that went into filming each scene was noticeable. One scene that’s a great example to buttress this point would be the opening scene, where we are introduced to the Shangisha community. Everything from the camera angles to the bomb effect kept us on the edge of our seats.
There were also several political satires that referenced issues affecting our society. Although hidden, one could easily relate a few characters to certain prominent figures.
As mentioned earlier, Chidi Okoreme delivers an excellent acting performance. His role as Chidi hits the ball out of the park. In addition to adequately portraying the complexities behind the character, he reminds us why we refer to him as the OG Nollywood lousy boy.
This would be the actor’s first role in a significant budget film within the last five years. The release of Shanty Town is a comeback for the talented actor who starred in early 2000s movies such as Abuja connection, Blood Battle, Anini, Saviour and Last Kobo.
While Shanty Town has a great concept behind it, the several tropes in it make the film lack a sense of originality. Rather than take a new spin on the tropes, Shanty Town follows the cliche route and focuses more on visual effects and stunts.
For example, the gang leader who works for politicians has been done before; a lady who wants revenge for her twin has also been done; two political rivals determined to make each other fall; and the sexualisation of women through prostitution is a few crime dramas’ go to storylines.
The script makes matters worse, as watching Shanty town might make you wonder where the story is heading and what’s up with the bland dialogues. It is also predictable, as during the opening scene, one could easily assume that the shot twin wasn’t dead, so her character would run on a vengeful storyline.
The film dragged a lot due to some unnecessary shots. For example, the dance scene during Jackie’s freedom party could have been shown within a minute, and the fight scenes between the supporters felt like the producers were trying to tell us how much work went into the stunts.
It’s slowly feeling like Nollywood writers rely on the theme of “juju” to explain how a villain gains his power and becomes undefeatable. While it’s good that writers are exploring certain cultural elements, it was a sore sight in this series.
6/10. Watch it. Shanty Town may not have been a great way to start the year, but the acting and cinematography are both excellent.
Shanty Town is now streaming on Netflix.