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Film Review: Charge and Bail

The Uyoyou Adia-directed feature is filled with plot loopholes that leave the audience wanting more.

The theme of a story can operate on many different levels, depending on the story’s genre and its writer’s interests and imaginations. One of the most common tropes in Nollywood is stories depicting good versus evil with comedic tinges.

While Nollywood is currently enjoying global attention, local content producers still seem to be against exploring other genres of films due to the perceived notion that movie-goers prefer comedy.

Stepping out of the norm to tell a story focused on the law and the legal profession is Inkblot’s latest production, Charge and Bail, directed by Uyoyou Adia.

A cinema debut for Adia, this motion picture lacks the proper zest needed to showcase that it understands the law terminologies its characters often use. Still, what it lacks in zeal it makes up for through the characters' genuineness and story structure. In fact, it is a commendation to this movie that it works on projecting its parochial side enough to seem knowledgeable and believable, but not too much that it becomes cumbersome and overshadows the interest of the story itself.

Adia's vision to tell a non-cliche law themed story is reflected through the delivery of her main characters Boma (Zainab Balogun) and Dotun (Stan Nze). Adia pictures a high-flying law firm with lawyers who are unapologetic about how they run their business. They offer premium services and their services come with a price.

Boma, a trust fund baby who is a hotshot lawyer from the United States isn't afraid to showcase her displeasure and stand up to her boss Dotun, who sees her as an outsider and isn't willing to let her into their circle to disrupt their profitable charge and bail business due to her high moral horse.

Upon her arrival to the country in the company of her best friend Amina (Folu Storms), she aims to work for her father’s law firm as a tech lawyer. Still, her immediate plan to manoeuvre her service year hits a snag when her National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) posting went differently than expected. She has to work with an organisation headed by her father’s long-time rival, Femi Adebayo.

The storyline of this movie does possess a level of charm through the dialogue that denotes relationships between the characters. The flow of the dialogue feels genuine and relatable, giving you a sense of belonging with the characters as they progress and conquer one challenge upon another.

It is important to point out that the concept of bail is largely misunderstood in Nigeria. This is because many Nigerians believe that once an accused person who is being tried or investigated for an offence is released on bail, this automatically signifies the end of the matter. Therefore, these sets of Nigerians feel that bail applications must always be opposed whenever an accused person makes a bail application. This project aims to educate the general public on the structure of bail in Nigeria by using relatable situations to tell the story.

Boma's character generates a strong sense of interest for the viewers as she deals with the uncanny realities of the judicial system in Nigeria. Her character questions the loopholes set in the Nigerian judicial system regarding the process of prosecution and the concept of bail in general. She also points out the laxity in getting proper justice by highlighting other themes in the film, ranging from the condescending upper-class division in the country and the lack of proper justice caused by poverty.

Although one could argue that Balogun’s delivery became inconsistent towards the third act of the film, especially in scenes that involved her and her father (portrayed by Bimbo Manuel), she fortunately still holds her own with a noteworthy performance. Meanwhile, Dotun is arguably the star of the show in that regard, displaying an ability to command scenes and also standing out as the charming but somewhat despicable lawyer. His character is vile and unpredictable. His projections showcase how much work he put into giving a heightened appearance of a sophisticated charge and bail lawyer with sass: rude and disrespectful, yet lively and spirited.

The plot does make missteps with a handful of its scenes. Some actions sometimes seem unresolved and incomplete. In some cases, the actions are too fast-paced, depriving me of an opportunity to understand what was being said fully.

The addition of CrazeClown and Chigurl’s characters in some critical scenes in the project didn't seem to fulfill its purpose. Instead, it made those scenes unnecessary, hindering them from showcasing some of the basic loopholes that the director was trying to communicate. Their characters were also supposed to serve as a form of humour, but unfortunately, they didn't.

For a body of work that is seemingly supposed to bridge the gap between stereotypical Nollywood slapstick comedy features and other film genres, Charge and Bail sadly ends the film with a cliche love ending cycle while still managing to keep its audience excited. But unfortunately, this kind of romance doesn't quite work with any real depth. It suddenly made the film resolution feel too easy and uncomplimentary to the tensioned and serious-minded pace the film started with.

Conclusively, if this project succeeds in doing one thing, it would be that Boma’s wants and needs are clearly stated. Her internal conflict is clear, granting the audience a first-row seat on her journey to self-discovery. This alone makes Charge and Bail a decent watch as it does create a sense of depth and fascination that keeps you wanting more.

The plot leaves you feeling dissatisfied in the end, and you can't help but feel something missing. At least that's how I felt; I waited until the end credits finished rolling to figure out if there was a scene or two left to get the sense of satisfaction because I could not shake the idea that the storyline could have given more than it did.

Charge and Bail is currently showing in cinemas nationwide.

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