Shanty Town Review

Shanty Town: Chidi Mokeme’s Electrifying Performance Shines in Bland

Maya Angelou once said, “The desire to reach for the stars is ambitious. The desire to reach hearts is wise”. This quote is one that perfectly describes Netflix’s latest offering to Nollywood, a crime thriller that flew too close to the sun. 

Nollywood in recent years has embraced the spirit of ambition, one that has done the industry massive favors. Kemi Adetiba’s King of Boys comes to mind when thinking of some of Nollywood’s most ambitious projects, her work paved the way for the blockbusters we’ve been getting so much of recently. Although, unlike King of Boys – and those that came after it like Brotherhood and King of Thieves – Shanty Town fails to capture the hearts of the audience. Where did it go wrong? 

Shanty Town

Shanty Town follows a group of courtesans, as they attempt to escape the grasp of a notorious kingpin, Scar (Chidi Mokeme). But freedom in Shanty Town is a near-impossible goal. Scar, on the other hand, is a puppet in the political rivalry happening between Chief Fernandez (Richard Mofe-Damijo) and Dame Dakota (Shaffy Bello). 

Right from the first scene, it is obvious that this is an ambitious project, one birthed by a passion for artistic creation. But as the series progresses, it gets lost in the ocean of its many subplots as the waves of dominance crash into one another. The writers, Xavier Ighorodje (One Chance) and Donald Tombia (Introducing the Kujus), clearly had a direction they wanted this series to pave, but their lack of a cohesive plot derails it. 

What is Shanty Town? A story about sex workers fighting for their hard-earned freedom? A story about the dirty games of politics? A story about the lines between revenge and justice? A story about a drug lord and his empire? We can’t tell, as the series never establishes its plots well enough to answer these questions. In fact, at the end of the 6-episodes series, nothing changes and we are right where we started. 

While the series struggles in its writing departments, the performance of its cast – at least most of them – reels the audience in and makes them forget how directionless the series is. Chidi Mokeme’s (’76) portrayal of Scar is excellent, and he delivered beyond measure. Richard Mofe-Damijo (Palava) delivers a menacing performance, but his struggles with the pronunciation of Yoruba words raised eyebrows. 

Shanty Town

ni Edo (The Man for the Job) and Nse Ikpe-Etim (Glamour Girls) both delivered in their respective roles, especially in their delivery of IbibioNancy Isime (Obara’ M) is captivating in her delivery of a frightened and desperate lady. Shaffy Bello (Elesin Oba) steals every scene she was in but her character feels like she belongs in a different project. The rest of the cast are misses or hits, while the potential of most is wasted. 

The technical aspects of the series shine as it makes it more appealing. The set designs are perfectly done, the costumes flow brilliantly with the tone of the series and its cinematography works most of the time. The fight scenes give the series more flair but most of the time the stuntmen are showing off their skills rather than delivering a realistic fight scene. 

Directed by Dimeji Ajibola (Passport), Shanty Town had the potential to be more than what we got but its numerous flaws hinder it from soaring the heights of its predecessors.

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