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“Bank Alert” Review: Akay Mason’s 2023 Comedy Offers Weary Smiles and Warm Hugs

“Bank Alert” Review: Akay Mason’s 2023 Comedy Offers Weary Smiles and Warm Hugs

Bank Alert - review - Nollywood - Okey Bakassi

Bank Alert makes for a great argument that simplicity and greater age and experience provide better guarantees for a pleasurable Nollywood filmgoing event.

By Victory Hayzard Solum

The first time I truly saw Kanayo O. Kanayo was in the Kunle Afolayan feature, October 1. There, he played a bereaved village man who must avenge the murder of his daughter by a serial killer, damning consequences from the colonial and police authorities. In the three scenes in which he appeared, it was hard to not stay riveted as he gave his all to this role that was so atypical of him. I had seen him be amazing in the secret cult movies for which he has been so popular. But there is something about decade-long repetitions which breed suspicions of complacency amongst the cynical.

In recent times, however, Kanayo appears to be making a conscious effort to spread the breadth of his portrayals, with roles such as the stupendously wholesome Odogwu in the Kayode Kasum 2023 feature, Afamefuna. In Akay ‘Mason’ Ilozobhie‘s 2023 movie, Bank Alert, he turns his attention towards the comedy genre, yielding marvellous results. But he is not the hero of the show. That distinction belongs to the lead actor and producer, Okey ‘Bakassi’ Onyegbule, who suffuses it with his steady, mellow-toned sense of humour.

In Bank Alert, Bakassi plays Sammy Okereke, a man whose conscientious work at a finance firm has rendered him penniless, and the victim of a lawsuit. With creditors hounding on every hand, and his wife frustrated by their predicament, Sammy heads to the bank for a business loan at the urging of his lawyer friend, Uche, as played by Kanayo. At the bank, his loan request is turned down, but just before he can leave, he finds his account miraculously credited with five hundred million naira, turning his fortunes around. On the other side of town, however, is an angry gangster, Modestus (Uzor Arukwe), stunned to find he has just lost his ten percent commission from a five billion naira criminal deal. Thus begins his search for those who have robbed him.

Bank Alert review - Okey Bakassi - Afrocritik

Bank Alert‘s major triumph is in how it skirts around Nollywood’s inclination for loud and exaggerated comedy. There are none of the usual gags and instantly recognisable plot plugins used to elicit immediate but hollow reactions. For the most parts, the film sticks to a simple and relatable story whose humour stems from the situation rather than queued contrivances. Bakassi carries himself with the quiet dignity of a man suffering the realisation that his idealism engenders no reciprocity in society. When his wife, Jadesola (Kate Henshaw-Nuttal), packs up and leaves with the kids just prior to his discovery of the money, Sammy can only celebrate his score with his lawyer friend who has no qualms flinging wads of cash at women in a night club. The story is, thus, bestowed with some pathos and a bitter edge, especially in the enjoyment of his newfound wealth.

Next is the film’s celebration of family, warts and all. While staying away from the outrightly cruel, there is nothing politically correct about the film’s presentation of family. Family is funny, nasty, ugly; family is complex. Whether it is Jade’s sister, Ope (Rekiya Yusuf), and her lack of boundaries, Sammy’s cousin, Janta (Bolanle Azzez Ninalowo), admitting to hating him in their youth, or Jade’s mother (Tina Mba) shaming Ope for not having a husband, Bank Alert gives several samplings of the complexities and paradoxes of family in as mellow a tone as it adopts.

The acting in this film is rather commendable. Peopled as it is by old, long-established stars familiar with their onions, there are very few false notes to complain about. Mba is no stranger to motherly roles, and, here, she embellishes it with laser-accurate comedic timing. Henshaw-Nuttal does an amazing portrayal of a woman at wits end about the future of her family, letting herself be blown back and forth by the wind before finding herself. Taiwo Hassan brings a reassuring sturdiness to Jade’s father, as the patriarch of Sammy’s extended family.

Arukwe as a gang lord seeking to reclaim his missing money is a delight to watch, with his easy excitability and frustration. That is until you remember that this is just a rehash of pretty much the same character he has played in several other movies; the semiliterate but wealthy criminal of Igbo origins. One can at least be glad that he has played roles worthy of consideration in other movies. Here is an actor with some considerable range who will not wait till later years to exhibit them while enjoying himself. Can we be faulted for enjoying him as he has a good time in these roles?

Bank Alert - review - Nollywood - Okey Bakassi

Bank Alert is not an absolutely excellent film. I have hitherto praised the story for being simple and free of contrivances. Well, towards the final act, the filmmakers seem to realise that they have set up near insurmountable odds by placing a resigned and tired family man against a bunch of bloodthirsty men. So, of course, Sammy has a cousin with a gang of his own, and with some prior knowledge of Modestus. Of course, Sammy’s father-in-law is a retired military man who knows what to do with number plates taken off a photograph. These new twists in the story are not particularly horrible. In fact, they are handled with a measure of control and some mastery. They do have that feel, however, of the convenient and coincidental.

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The child actors on hand are not the best, but there is room for growth. Mason has a beautiful eye for shot composition and the use of contrasts. There are long takes peppered throughout the film, executed with enviable ease, and the fight choreography is not the worst to have hit us in recent times.

Produced by Bakassi and Wingonia Ikpi for FilmOne Studios, Bank Alert makes for a great argument that simplicity and greater age and experience provide better guarantees for a pleasurable Nollywood filmgoing event. It’s not an argument I would like to make. But the search remains for a solid counter.

Rating: 3/5

(Bank Alert is currently streaming on Prime)

Victory Hayzard Solum is a freelance writer with an irrepressible passion for the cinematic arts. Here he explores the sights, sounds, and magic of the shadow-making medium and their enrichment of the human experience. A longstanding ghostwriter, he may have authored the last bestselling novel you read.

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