Whatever flashes of excellence Merry Men 3: Nemesis displays, they are quickly snuffed out in its pursuit of bland jokes. Perhaps the film’s most successful joke, if any, is that it exists at all.
By Victory Hayzard Solum
In 2017, high off a slight increase in income, I began taking members of my family to the cinema in batches. On one of those occasions, the film of choice was unavailable, but with an unwillingness to cancel the trip, it was easy to switch decisions and pick something else. Nollywood had given sufficient cause to be proud in the recent past, so there was no possible harm in seeing a new movie on offer. The said film was The Accidental Spy, starring the industry veteran, Ramsey Nouah (Living in Bondage: Breaking Free, Merry Men: The Real Yoruba Demons), as well as the showman and comedian, Ayo “AY” Makun (30 Days in Atlanta, A Trip to Jamaica). Not since then have I had to go through an entire movie wincing in near-physical agony, almost crying from the awkwardness on display. This has changed with the recently released Merry Men 3: Nemesis, and the fact that both movies share the same leads is worthy of scientific inquiry. Perhaps, I should take consolation in the fact that this time, I see it safely in the comfort of my room. Besides, I should have been warned; Netflix has a penchant for releasing their worst Nollywood movies in January.
In this Moses Inwang-directed (Blood Vessel, Alter Ego) action-comedy, the eponymous Robin Hood-style robbers, Ayo (Ramsey Nouah), Amaju (Ayo “AY” Makun), and Johnny (Williams Uchemba) are back for another adventure, finding their team tragically short of two members, and their lives in danger from the vengeful Dafe (Chidi Mokeme), a new player and a ghost of Ayo’s past betrayals. When he threatens to frame them up as responsible for his murderous crusade against thieving politicians, the gang must do all they can to prevent this or risk destruction, even if it means dining with their number one frenemy, Dame Maduka (Iretiola Doyle).
This is Moses Inwang’s second turn directing the Merry Men movies, beginning with Merry Men 2. It is executively produced by Ayo “AY” Makun, Valentine Ozigbo, Kene Okwuosa (King of Boys, The Wedding Party 2: Destination Dubai), Moses Babatope (Adire, Superstar), and Craig Shurn (Obara’M, Prophetess), in a collaboration between Corporate World Entertainment, FilmOne Entertainment, and Gush Media. Built around a screenplay by Musa Jeffery David (Blood Vessel, Lockdown) Merry Men 3: Nemesis features the cinematography of Wesley Johnston (Slay), with a score by Kayode Dada (In Circles, City Hustlers).
In its opening scenes, we are introduced to Dafe, an armed robber recently released from incarceration abroad, who cancels his debt with a gang by killing all but one of them. Once this is done, he sets his vengeful eyes homewards, in the direction of the Merry Men, and quickly dispenses off the crowd’s favourite characters, Naz and Remi (played in the last two movies by Jim Iyke and Falz). Scenes as such should induce chills in the viewer, and for a while, they do, carried by the gravitas of the ever-capable Chidi Mokeme (’76, Shanty Town). But once we cross over into the Merry Men side of things, the scenes dissolve into a horrid concoction of poor scripting, poor directing, and horrible acting.
In the wedding scene featuring Naz’s demise, the actors and extras all sit around in stiff caricatures of horror and confusion, waiting for the “bad man” to finish his monologue. It is only the end of this speech – not the bombing of Naz’s car – that spurs them into the action of scampering for their lives. It is this turn-by-turn acting, never a drop of spontaneous reaction, that sets the tone for the rest of the movie.
There are multiple deaths and a near-death in Merry Men 3: Nemesis. This suggests a turn towards darkness which would have helped this film somewhat, in spite of itself. But the filmmakers cannot seem to make up their minds, infusing jokes and comedic bits that never land, in the worst possible moments.
If you have gotten attached to any characters from the last two movies, you might find yourself disappointed this time around. We never catch a glimpse of Naz and Remi before they are done away with. There are new faces on board, too. Nadia Buari (Coming to Africa: Welcome to Ghana, A Toast to Forever) replaces Damilola Adegbite (Merry Men 2, Coming from Insanity) as the face of Dera, Ayo’s heartthrob, in an acting turn which, since we are already downsizing, could really have been done away with. The great Sam Dede (Brotherhood, The Black Book) is here for all of twenty-five minutes, and much ado is made of his character, Father Uduak Francis. But with no prior acquaintanceship or establishment, it is never quite clear why we should care, except, perhaps, merely to see Dede get shot on camera. Bucci Franklin (Far From Home, Kofa) makes his entry into the franchise as Jonas, a replacement Merry Man. But if his scenes offer any bits of pleasantness, they are too little and too late to save the film from itself.
Murder two Merry Men, and within hours their colleague is cosying up with a woman in a hotel room, and no, there is no indication of this being a part of his grieving process. Blow up the National House of Assembly building. Who cares? Hours later, the senators are dillydallying at a party with the flimsiest security, and not a hint of a state of emergency. Murder a boy’s mother, strap him up with a bomb, and carry out a gunfight around him; so much for trauma. Watch him skip-skip-skip back into view, in time for the most disappointing of reveals. Merry Men 3: Nemesis apparently plays out in a world where the most disastrous incidents never inspire more than a howl, a shrug, and a poorly shot action sequence with a cartoonish Williams Uchemba (Sugar Rush, Mamba’s Diamond) dropping groan-inducing lines.
It is intriguing how Mokeme’s much-appreciated return to our screens has been bogged down by entries competing for the title of “Worst of the Worst” since Shanty Town. But whatever lucky charm these movies seem to be relying on him for, it is slowly being eroded, as his star quality has to put up with being in the character of an angry but lazy individual without the requisite foresight to predict kindergarten-grade trickery and plot twists.
Ufuoma McDermott (Merry Men 2, Pandora’s Box) is an amazing actress, and proves here, once again, that she is capable of holding her own as a dramatic lead in an action movie. Ireti Doyle (The Wedding Party, The Origin: Madam Koi-Koi) never disappoints as the ever-mocking Dame Maduka churns insults in Igbo. But whatever flashes of excellence Merry Men 3: Nemesis displays, they are quickly snuffed out in its pursuit of bland jokes. Perhaps the film’s most successful joke, if any, is that it exists at all.
(Merry Men 3: Nemesis is currently streaming on Netflix)
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.