The story of Coming from Insanity is so wild, it is clear the writers wanted to write a story where the truth is stranger than fiction. It isn’t quite clear how much of Akinyemi Sebastian Akinropo’s debut is true and how much is made up, but it makes sense that he would go the lavish crime thriller route in choosing to tell a story that flaunts boundless ambition, avarice and youthful zest as primary ingredients.
Gabriel Afolayan, continuing his streak of leading ensemble pieces, is the poster boy for Coming from Insanity. Afolayan is front and centre, as Kossi the bear, an impoverished lad from Togo who is trafficked as a child and brought to Lagos to serve as a domestic servant for the Bellos (Wale Ojo and Dakore Akande, in tiny, stock roles.)
Kossi goes through the checkered journey that is expected of anyone who finds themselves in his situation. There is genuine warmth in the kinship that Kossi develops with the Bello daughter, Oyin (Damilola Adegbite,) but he is also bullied and degraded by Oyin’s brother, Femi (Wole Ojo). Gifted with a high IQ, the grown up Kossi is discerning enough to recognize his potential and resourceful enough to attempt to claw his way out of what is more or less, indentured servitude.
Having received no formal education and desirous of the luxurious accoutrements that his labor has serviced for decades, Kossi makes use of the only resources available, his brains and brawn, plus a little assistance from his friend, Emmanuel (Adeolu Adefarasin.) Kossi starts up a criminal operation that specializes in printing fake US dollars and before long, introduces his counterfeit currency into an unsuspecting market.
For a while, Kossi and his team enjoy a splendid run that catapults them into a fast life of money, booze and women. Kossi’s inferiority complex however, has him fixated on Sonia (Sharon Ooja), the sexy, trophy girlfriend of his erstwhile nemesis, Femi. More pressing than the inevitable clash of egos between two troubled young men though, is the dogged police operative (Udoka Oyeka) closing in on Kossi’s little operation.
Akinropo is clearly a fan of sleek Hollywood style crime capers in which the heroes are dashing and the heists elaborate. Gabriel Afolayan is no Clooney or Dicaprio, but as the center of Coming to Insanity, he commits to affecting a faux Togolese accent to distinguish his work from May’s Gold Statue and every other character he’s played in his career. The accent is the primary cover that is available to him as the plot driven screenplay cannot cover his bubbly, intense personality.
Overall direction prioritizes plot progression over character development and his film suffers for it as the action constantly shifts dizzyingly from one contrived moment to the other. The overdependence on coincidences is unhealthy, particularly so for stories such as these, that are based on fact.
Almost every major development that happens in Coming from Insanity is a fresh layer of serendipity, some of which haven’t been thought through well enough to blend with the story that Akinropo- also receiving writing credit- is telling. It is almost like he has assembled his major twists and forces them to fit in regardless of how disruptive they may be to the smoothness of the experience. This eventually leaves room for plot holes and head scratching moments.
For films like Coming from Insanity, bigger is usually better. Bigger stars, bigger sets, bigger set pieces, bigger thrills.
Bigger budgets don’t hurt either.
Akinropo is clearly limited in the finance department but he stretches the resources available to him, perhaps too thin. The visual candy shines but not bright enough, sets aren’t quite lavish enough, action sequences do not quite commit to violence, and the thinly sketched characters present the talented supporting cast with too little to work with. Sound design is also inadequate and the post-script that sums up the fate of the main characters after the last scene plays like an attempt to appease the skittish folks at the censors board.
Akinropo is limited by budget yes, but for all his flair, he also skimps on details. More often than not, instead of detailing the process of his set pieces, Akinropo chooses easier and less credible outs by zooming straight to the outcomes, giving his film a mask of incredulity. Suspension of belief is one thing, but Coming from Insanity also expects audiences to suspend common sense and take a leap of faith without working hard enough to earn it. A bright idea can create a spark and while a strong story is always a welcome start, the devil remains in the detail.