Review: Imoh Umoren’s “Club” isn’t as bad as the trailer led us to believe



This review isn’t entirely spoiler free, so proceed with caution.

Imoh Umoren’s fifth feature film Club is not bad. But it’s not a good either. Before going to watch Club, I kept thinking of Nancy Isime’s horribly cliché lines in the terminal shots of the trailer, where she points a gun at a knife-wielding Baaj Adebule in the titular club. What I feared, mostly, was that that clunky act was only a slice of the entire movie.

Contrary to what that’s been gloriously written before its release, Club isn’t “action packed” or “adrenaline-pumping,” but it’s interesting enough to merely stoke your curiosity. “You need to have a budget for area boys when filming in Lagos,” Umoren said to Nollywood Film Hub in a recent interview. While that may be true, Club is steadily insular and yet expository, drawing you into a treacherous world of drugs, sex, money and power.

It’s also the story of Pam. Played by Nancy Isime, Pam is the stripper manager slash hyper-capable lieutenant working in this high-profile night club. (the trailer sold her to us as some sort of assassin but whatever). And oops, she has a gun. A gun. I already told you that the world of Club is treacherous!

Pam first jumps into our faces with a voiceover, which unspools as a commentary on Nigeria’s present social condition. It doesn’t exclude her,  though. She’s a victim of circumstance, trying to raise N6.7 million for her ailing father’s surgery. Her boss (Kelechi Udegbe), who everyone addresses as Mr. X, is a bubbly, loquacious character but with a mean eye on the club’s finances. Which is, in no small part, buoyed by the club’s veiled, stripper-sex work trade.

Pam is like, well, badass? Her hair is in a pixie cut, and she wears a black biker jacket throughout the movie that in one scene, her father indifferently calls her a boy. As the movie’s solitary female lead, Isime isn’t viscerally convincing as Pam. It’s like watching the anodyne Halle Berry massacre Catwoman, which is just indicative of a cheesily bad script. Club doesn’t soar because the writing is flat and lackluster. Pam teases us with breaking the fourth wall which serves no purpose, often speaks in a dissonant drawl, and habitually smokes because, hey, what better way to signal that a woman has gone off the deep end that put a cigarette between her lips.

There’s a sense that Club is supposed to be a grand, spectacular entry in Imoren’s oeuvre, made to be fun, smart, and gleefully violent. But it doesn’t feel that way. Implanted in Club is a heist that Pam imperceptibly sets in motion. Although it’s been mentioned before, we don’t see it coming because the heist plan is massaged into a highly pivotal murder at the club – the death of Pam’s favourite stripper.

It becomes a mystery murder case, and this is where Club shines. There’s a shocking revelation about the heist (which I won’t spoil) as the film reaches a crescendo. In the theatre, I had expected an eruption of gasps and reactions and cheering but there was a palpable mass disinterest. The film’s big moment didn’t have any reception. Was everyone bored or sleeping? Or had they fallen off their seats?

I would like to think that this wasn’t the case in other theatres. But then, can you blame them? As a thriller, Club isn’t wound tighter, and it doesn’t pack that punch to leave you in awe. Pam never shoots a bullet out of the gun she brandishes so much. But she commits puppy murder, a lá John Wick, and, twenty two hours later, I’m still wondering where she buried the dog.


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