by Wilfred Okiche
In CaTCH.eR, the latest crime thriller by Walter ‘Waltbanger’ Taylaur, the director returns to the seedy underworld that made his 2015 feature-length debut, Gbomo Gbomo Express, so instinctively appealing. But instead of gritty Ebute-Meta neighbourhoods, depicted via run-down housing and peopled by dirty rotten scoundrels, this time around, Taylaur opts for the high rise, semi-luxury towers of Victoria Island’s 1004 estate, plus more shots of that blasted Lekki-Ikoyi link-bridge.
As for the people? They may sport foreign accents, clean up nicer and enjoy more luxurious digs than the lowlifes of Gbomo Gbomo Express, but their behaviour still runs toward the reprobate spectrum and virtually everyone is running their own hectic race, thrashing and clawing for survival.
CaTCH.eR opens with two policemen, a chain-smoking Detective Komolafe (O.C. Ukeje) and his reptilian subordinate, John Okoli (Tope Tedela), trying to make sense of the murder of Abiodun Bello (Beverly Naya), a high flying, financial executive who was found bludgeoned to death in her Lagos apartment, on the event of her wedding anniversary.
Apart from Ukeje and Tedela, the actors who make up the principal cast are all returnees from Gbomo Gbomo Express or from past Taylaur projects, such as the television series, Married to the Game, itself, a spin-off from the former. Blossom Chukwujekwu, Alex Ekubo, Gbenro Ajibade and Kiki Omeili all seem perfectly happy tagging along once again for the ride.
The attraction for the young actors must have been the chance to work once again with Taylaur, a filmmaker who with a soft focus on style and action, is setting himself up as one of Nollywood’s thinking men. But the twisty script, credited to Taylaur as well as Tunde Apalowo, adapting his source material, a short titled, ‘The Chase Game’ must have helped too.
A basic police procedural – to the extent that it can be called one – masquerading as a clever whodunit, CaTCH.eR turns out to be a more tame domestic drama, albeit with some blood and gore, than an edge-of-your-seat thriller. A lot of the insufficiencies can be placed on the altar of the plotting, a series of flashbacks that attempts to solve the crime by tracing the last hours of the victim, from the points of view of the primary suspects.
This approach to plotting the film’s narrative powers the story to a credible enough ending- Gbomo Gbomo’s was an overreach – but one that is also flawed as it makes the policemen who should be the film’s heroes, bystanders, merely props to keep things moving along.
The entire story plays out as a function of the characters’ recollection of events of that fateful day and as such, Ukeje has nothing to do but glower at his colleagues, while inhaling as much smoke as he can manage. The puzzle more or less solves itself with little active input from him. Take him away and the film could still work as a confessional style tale of greed, betrayal and murder with Tedela’s Okoli appearing willing to put in more work.
The list of potential suspects is shortened to two men who spend a lot of time with the victim daily, both of them with sufficient motive to want Mrs Bello out of the picture. The prime suspect is of course, her young husband, Tony (Ekubo), a feckless social climber lacking in conscience. But there is also Brume Idolor (Chukwujekwu) a shady colleague cum rival for a top position.
It says a lot about the balance of power in our workspaces that Abby and Brume are considered rivals for the same vice presidency slot. She is presented as a stickler for details that constantly has to clean up after him. She is called in from an expensive holiday on her wedding anniversary to take a second look at some files he already treated.
On the other hand, nothing about Brume positions him as a serious candidate. He lies, throws punches, cooks books, and shags everyone that will have him. The fact that the film wants to play his fear of losing out the position to Abby, obviously better qualified, as a motive for murder isn’t just an indictment on the thin web of suspense that CaTCH.eR spins, but on its gender politics.
When it comes to thinly sketched-out characterisation, both male and female characters are equal offenders. Because of the film’s noir-ish influences – it is shot in pale, milky colours – the writing team concludes that the victim has to be female, ditto the hooker (Omowunmi Dada) but the men who are husbands and lawyers and cops fail to rise to the occasion.
Despite solid acting across board, none of these (hot) guys is worth rooting for, none is particularly knowable and none shows any agency. The clues merely drop on the laps of the policemen, unsubtly too, as timed by the writers, and the suspects do not show any real dynamism in the film’s respectable running time.
The message that CaTCH.eR passes in the end, without meaning to, is that even in death, the world will continue to fail a successful woman, especially when she is surrounded by a bunch of inadequate, less than worthy men.
The writer tweets from @drwill20