Jolly Roger

Jolly Roger: Its Unusual Script and Powerful Cast Saves the Day

Walter Taylaur’s A Sunday Affair was one of the first Nollywood films I watched this year. While the film was littered with flaws that might not be so obvious, it was one I enjoyed mostly because of its unique premise. A month after, I saw another Taylaur-directed film, and while I would describe my feelings for both films as similar, they are two very different films. 

 Jolly Roger begins “in media res”, which is a style of storytelling in which the story begins in the middle. The format splits the film into two main parts, one in the past and the other in the present. The past follows the story of Brume (Daniel Etim-Effiong) and Najite (Toni Tones), a childless couple that encounters numerous struggles in their bid to bear a child. One of the struggles is in the form of Brume’s mother (Tina Mba), a Ph.D. holder whose solution to their barrenness is an endless supply of traditional remedies including the urine of a turtle.  

In the present day, a now-widowed Brume tricks two police officers — Frank Donga and Toyin Oshinaike — into captivity. The story takes a different turn as we come to realize the officers might be involved in the death of Brume’s dead wife. With the help of his friend, Dammy (Deyemi Okanlawon), Brume channels his inner monster as he begins a series of torture in the hope of getting a confession from the officers. 

Jolly Roger

Like many others, I was under the impression that this film would be similar to Collision Course, a disastrous film that tried to rehash the events of the #EndSars movement. This might be because both films share the same lead actor or the fact the film was marketed as one. Thankfully, Jolly Roger isn’t anything like that. 

The film opens by defining the word “roger” as an expression for “message received,” a description of “forbidden sex,” and as a Nigerian slang that means “to bribe”. At a point in the film, each definition can be observed, which I thought was a brilliant touch. 

Writer Tunde Apalawo creates a beautiful story that poses numerous questions, especially about decisions and consequences. These questions are sadly under-explored, as the film gets carried away by subplots that don’t help drive the story forward. The most innovative part of the story though, is how there were no good guys because at the core every one of the characters is bad. 

Jolly Roger 2

Another flaw in the story is the lack of suspense. Early on in the film, the lead cast revealed the events we are about to see are narrated in the last few minutes before his death. The revelation kills the anticipation of what is to come as the audience is now only concerned with seeing how the lead character dies. It could have been so much better without the early spoiler. 

The six-member cast mostly delivers a brilliant performance with the highlight being Etim-Effiong (Collision Course) delivering what I consider one of his best acting performances. Toni Tones (Brotherhood) is another cast with an incredible delivery, far from what she is known for, she plays a soft and emotional character, one she does justice to. Tina Mba (Tainted Canvas) is in a realm of her own as she continues to deliver strong motherly performances. 

Frank Donga (Swallow) is a surprise as he delivers a non-comedic performance with an energy that elevates him. Toyin Oshinaike (Brotherhood) settles into his role with ease. Deyemi Okanlawon (The King’s Horseman) is disappointing in his role as his inability to portray the required emotions stuns his performance, thankfully he is surrounded by a beautiful cast. 

The film utilizes its small space beautifully in its production design. The soundtrack and cinematography work for what the film is trying to achieve. The editing on the order hand is bland and the sound is a riot. 

Jolly Roger is a film that knows what it wants to achieve and tries its best to get there. It isn’t perfect but it is an enjoyable crime thriller. 

Jolly Roger Ratings: 7/10

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