You see the movie title, Merry Men: The Real Yoruba Demons, and you know you are about to view a spectacle. Written, produced and directed by comedian Ayo “AY” Makun, it is one of the highest-grossing Nollywood movies of 2018.
This isn’t a surprise, considering the high budget, good marketing and star-studded cast. It is easily one of the most entertaining movies of 2018, but this isn’t necessarily a good thing.
The plot tries to follow bad boys Ayo Alesinloye (Ramsey Nouah), Amaju Abioritsegbemi (Ayo Makun), Naz Okigbo (Jim Iyke) and Remi Martins (Falz the Bahd Guy), four best friends who refer to themselves as the Merry Men.
In the intro, it is made clear that this is not a reference to the band of outlaws in Robin Hood, who steal from the rich to give to the poor. If you can focus on the narration that is almost drowned out by the music, you’ll hear, “We’re Merry Men because life’s a huge amusement park, and we’re going nowhere until we’ve been on every ride it has to offer.”
One of the ways they happen to enjoy life is by stealing from corrupt officials and redistributing their wealth. Thanks to hacker Remi, the friends discover an evil plan to demolish a small village in Abuja and build an ultra-modern shopping mall. Ayo Alesinloye considers the slum his home and his escape, so the big baddie must be stopped.
We’ll start with the strengths, seeing as there are so few of them.
Most people will agree that Falz as Remi Martins is one of the best parts of the movie. He manages to be entertaining and endearing.
The set and costume design are beautiful. With all the mansions, fast cars, stylish agbadas and sparkling diamonds, the budget was put to good use.
Cinematography and sound
Music almost drowns out the dialogue in some places, especially in the intro and in a particular romantic scene. The audio can be patchy.
There are flaws with the lighting as well. Skip to the scene where Amaju meets Dame Maduka’s secretary. There is a drastic change in the lighting that makes no sense. Did you see nobody move to flip a switch or open a window?
The action scenes look like they were filmed by an excited child. Shaking the camera vigorously or moving it away when someone throws a punch or shoots a gun is cheap and lazy.
Writing and Plot
Unfortunately, even with its big-budget and star-studded cast, this movie could not avoid the bane of Nollywood movies: an incoherent plot. It should be straightforward – stop a corrupt official from destroying a village. But the loose threads and weird pacing left us scratching our heads.
This is a movie about a heist, yet it is not exciting, and the way the scenes are put together often makes no sense. The film seems aware of this, and tries to distract from it by adding whatever it thinks will fascinate us, from a car race on narrow roads to fight scenes so bad they’re hilarious.
The characters have the potential to be interesting, but they weren’t properly developed. The shortage of chemistry between them, especially the love interests, coupled with the bad writing, makes for a painful watch.
Even worse is how the movie tries to placate you with flashy cars and dialogue that’s supposed to be edgy but is just cringey. The actors clearly had a hard time working the poor script because it’s all forced acting and woodenly delivered lines.
No one’s performance really stands out. The Merry Men themselves are pretty average. Jim Ikye obviously wants us to glue our faces to our screens just to hear him. Damilola Adegbite is Dera, a government official who works for the Merry Men on the side, and Ayo’s love interest. Her acting was okay, nothing special.
Richard Mofe-Damijo plays Ayo’s father and his talent is wasted. He serves no purpose in the movie, a victim of both an illness and the forsaken plot. Ireti Doyle has a bigger role as the main villain and Amaju’s sugar mummy but does not perform as passionately as we would expect.
This just might be the biggest fail. Along with the cinematography, the direction of the action scenes is poor. One minute people are arguing, the next someone is falling for some reason. There is no coordination and instead of showing us how good the characters are at everything, including fighting, it just makes us laugh. The laughter turns to confusion as you realize you don’t actually know what is happening.
With professional writing and direction, this movie could have been something very special. With such a huge budget, there is no reason why they settled for mediocrity. They could have at least made an effort.
All in all, this is one of those movies that are so bad they’re good, so if Ayo Makun intended to entertain us, he succeeded.