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Movie Review: Okey Bakassi’s Bank Alert is a Holiday Brew of Comedy & Drama

Bank Alert cover


Okey Bakassi’s debut film, “Bank Alert,” graces Nigerian cinemas this holiday season as a tailor-made drama comedy movie. Produced by Wingonia Ikpi, with Akay Mason in the director’s chair, it is a 2-hour movie that journeys through the experience of a man named Samuel who lost everything. He becomes the ‘victim’ of a money laundering mistake that gifts him 500 million naira and a lot of attention.


“Bank Alert” was advertised as a comedy, and the trailer heavily leans in that direction. Kanayo O. Kanayo’s meta references, biting comical quips, and lavish party scenes might have given people that impression. However, the elements of drama in the final product add a level of gravitas to the storyline. The first hour of this film thoroughly explores the life of a man who has his back to the wall. His children dismiss him, his neighbors hound him, and even his wife, who chose to stand by him, chips away at his ego with every sacrifice of support. This level of detail provides great background for Samuel’s actions later on as a desperate man.


As always with Nollywood, “Bank Alert’s” cinematography is excellent and dynamic throughout the movie. They stick the camera on a tripod and cram behind a counter while Samuel waits for a loan, and they hover above the subject to show us how powerless Samuel is in his struggle. A particular handheld, one-take scene tells a comprehensive grace-to-grass story as it follows the man from a wedding photo to family pictures, a clean sweep of the living room, and finally, Samuel’s wasteland view from his balcony.


The camera does a lot of heavy lifting during the emotional moments. You can see Kate Henshaw’s silhouette when the landlord, played by Tolu Odebunmi, corners Samuel to ask for rent overdue for over 18 months. Or in the car scene where Samuel’s wife, Jade, played by Kate Henshaw, has 200mm lenses shoved into her face, showing skin pores, teary eyes, and scratches on her gold earrings while melancholic music accompanies. Music too is excellent in “Bank Alert,” as Tosin Amire presents a carefully crafted score, undulating between the dramatic and lighthearted with ease.


“Bank Alert” is well-written, dialogue-wise, with the screenplay by Lucky Emmanuel Igbomor. It adds just enough comedy to keep the tone light but does not dilute the drama within. A stand-out scene is Samuel’s conversation with Uche, his lawyer friend played by Kanayo O. Kanayo in the office. One of the most realistic and heartwarming presentations of friendships yet received from Nollywood. An excellent pacing decision was also made to merge scenes into one another to create an impression of concurrent events. It was bold to trust the audience to follow the story, and that creative decision is rewarded with a feeling of newness during viewings.


The cast as well translated the script with glee, offering stellar showings from Uzor Arukwe, who plays a Chidi Mokeme-esque role in Shanty town, Bolanle Ninalowo’s outcast caricature, and phony Jamaican accent. Okey Bakassi and Kate Henshaw also did well, save for a few moments like Okey’s uninspiring “Nooo” when he learns his daughter was kidnapped. And the big fight between Samuel and Jade, which came across as overly dramatic since the conflict between the couple wasn’t well established. In that scene, Kate Henshaw’s Pacino screams rang hollow in what would have been the couple’s infamous “Whitecaps” moment.


Taiwo ‘Ogogo’ Hassan plays Samuel’s calm but danger-capable father-in-law. He’s a retired general and seems to be the voice of reason in the movie. He’s a delight on screen and assists in one of the more memorable scenes where Samuel and his family hatch their master plan. There’s stark contrast between his character and Ninalowo’s that just made you want to root for their odd team-up.


With the level of technical and dialogue expertise displayed in “Bank Alert,” it seems shortcomings came from the cutting floor. Time that could have been used to explore conflict between Samuel and his wife or Taiwo Hassan’s character before having him give arc-changing advice to Samuel was used for the obligatory Nollywood stuntmen fight scenes. Even that one scene with Samuel’s daughter in the kidnapper’s den didn’t do much for the story.


Themewise, this movie, co-produced by a legion of corporate bodies: FilmOne Studios, Tribal Marks Productions (Okey Bakassi’s company), Trino Motion Pictures, and Sterling Bank, provides biting observations about Nigeria’s banking inadequacies but chooses not to draw blood. It slightly nudges at certain societal issues like classism, ageism, and socio-personal constructs but refuses to make big statements. However, the one thing that sticks to mind days after viewing is how the lack of finances can make men desperate and perform actions that are morally gray. Samuel lost his fortune for standing on dignity yet gained it when he refused to do the right thing. I wonder what message this passes?


Okey Bakassi’s “Bank Alert” is exciting, lighthearted, heartfelt, funny, beautiful, sometimes choppy, but most importantly– creative. It delivers on an exciting two hours, and sometimes, that’s all you need from a movie. It is fitting for the holiday, and you should catch it with family for a good time.


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Oyedele is passionate about culture and arts. Engage on instagram and twitter, @omoalokan