Merry Men 2: A More Successful Second Mission for Moses Inwang (5/10)

There is this criticism of Nollywood that it only really does mediocre comedy, although there is no denying the great variety, and there is a point to this. When you break down a Nollywood comedy, the only places you can find are about a dozen scenes contrived to make you laugh, often based on very dry histrionics. There is no decent storyline or plot.

The Yoruba Demons, the prequel to Merry Men 2: Another Mission, is a near perfect example of mediocrity that goes by the name of comedy in Nollywood. It offers the usual mix of lame slapstick and opulent, glamorous settings and bang! that is your ₦5,000 gone. While Merry Men didn’t succeed in breaking away from this mould, it does manage to fare better.

Another Mission starts with a well-crafted heist that ends with breaking out a prisoner supposedly being transferred. The prisoner, Zara Aminu (Ufuoma McDermott), is reluctant to leave with her ‘rescuers’, but is convinced by a picture they showed her and agreed to go with them. Nobody sees the photo and so knows anything – who is the person or treasure in the mystery picture, why is Zara attracted etc.? No one knows anything – the urge to know sustains the suspense in Merry Men.

So far so good, then the flaws start to crawl out. The main issue is stretching credulity so thin. Zara, who we find out used to be one of the gang in The Yoruba Demons, turns out to be a petty criminal who had become a hire assassin working exclusively on government commissions. Okay, we may let this pass. But can a priced assassin working for the government end up unceremoniously behind bars in Nigeria? Or to put the question otherwise, would a Sergeant Rogers have ever been put on trial had Abacha not died? Go and watch the film and decide for yourself. But one thing we are certain is absolutely ridiculous is the 3-year sentence handed to Zara, a convicted murderer.

There is a more structural defect. Merry Men 1 was advertised as a film that centred on four men who steal from the rich and give to the poor, but alas there was hardly any evidence of the poor benefitting from their Robin-Hood lifestyle. instead the whole thing was focused on one battle against a corrupt rich official, Dame Maduka (Ireti Doyle). The fact that Maduka was the villain in this sequel was rather predictable, and the fact that they apparently had to run a mission for her made the whole thing seem like a poor version of the first two George Clooney Ocean’s films.

Also, Another Mission simultaneously does too much and too little. There’s the over-acting from Ayo Makun ‘AY’, and an obvious ploy to draw laughs by making him appear ‘razz’.  That role worked well with Williams Uchemba, but then again you could say that Uchemba’s character was hardly necessary – did we need another awkward-ish tech guy? The whole plot would have gone the same way without him, just with a little less funny.

Credit where it is due, though, as Another Mission merits applause for (some of) its cinematographic acts; in particular the scene where the piano music equally resonates with the fight scenes happening simultaneously. There’s also the (however brief) moment when the merry men wrestle with a dilemma, having to decide whether to make sure a corrupt official ends up behind bars or whether they get a family member back. Ties of blood tangle with ties to the law.  Do they help a corrupt official walk free and back in power, betraying what they stood for, or do they let a loved one pay the price for their past harm? Some of the plot twists are A-level Hollywood.

However, even when you find merits, you still need to put some caveats. Another Mission didn’t quite pull its punches in terms of cinematography, yet, it says a lot that in a movie with that much shooting, there was barely any blood! And while it was good to see the merry men go up against adversaries that initially outsmarted them and made them less formidable, was there really a point where they’ve been formidable, other than a reputation of which we saw little evidence?

The ending leaves so many loose ends. Maduka was somewhat thwarted, but we don’t know what becomes of her. Maduka forced Stephanie (Nancy Isime), to do bad things with her very much against her will but the last we saw of them everything was jolly between them.

Maybe we are being set up for a third instalment. But the first two have not been really brilliant. Merry Men 2 fares better than its predecessor, but that’s still not much of a positive; there’s still nothing concrete about the ‘franchise’. If there will be a third instalment, it needs to do more than just scratch the surface.

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