Directed by: – Dare Olaitan
Produced by: – Olufemi Ogunsanwo, Bibi Olaitan, Dare Olaitan, Niyi Olaitan
Starring: – Ade Laoye, Linda Ejiofor, Meg Otanwa, Gbenga Titiloye, Demola Adedoyin, Paul Utomi, Bucci Franklin, Charles Etubiebi
Runtime: – 102 minutes
The film up for review today is the sophomore effort of up and coming writer and director Dare Olaitan, who in 2017 made a statement of intent to shake up Nollywood with Ojukokoro (Greed), a gripping crime-thriller and a loving homage to Guy Ritchie and Quentin Tarantino films like Snatch and Reservoir Dogs. It was a unique and thoroughly enjoyable film that showed Nollywood that the industry is capable of creating complex and intricate crime capers. After a detour with Ndani TV’s web-series Lagos Big Boys, Dare has returned to film making for the silver screen with today’s film.
Knock Out Blessing revolves around the eponymous Blessing, a young and timid girl (Ade Laoye) from Owu with a killer hook that would make Saitama proud. She has dreams of competing in an international boxing tournament in America where the winner takes home a big purse. Due to some unforeseen and tragic circumstances, she is exiled from her hometown and takes refuge in Abeokuta. Through a chance encounter, Blessing comes across two call girls Oby (Linda Ejiofor) and Hannah (Meg Otanwa) who also long to get out of this unglamorous and shady lifestyle. After witnessing the damage Blessing’s punch can instill on people, the trio form an alliance and pledge to get Blessing to her tournament but in order to do that they will have to crawl into the cesspit of crime and their actions will eventually see them face the Nigeria political system. With a premise that is simultaneously bonkers and intriguing, can Knock-out Blessing become hit?
- Classically trained actress Ade Laoye who has thrived on stage productions like Saro and Wakaa the Musical and TV shows like Hush, and Battleground and movies like The Tribunal has taken another massive step in showing why she is on course to become one of Nigeria’s greatest actresses. Her depiction of Blessing is far cry from what we are used to seeing as Laoye masterfully depicts the protagonist as a tormented and withdrawn tomboy who you can tell is carrying a massive burden just by looking at her eyes. She doesn’t speak as much as the other characters, but still carries the story forward thanks to her expressions and her deadly hook.
- Dare and his cast clearly understands the adage that you are only as good as your supporting cast and along with Blessing, the film is littered with memorable characters. Some personal highlights for me include Gbenga Titiloye, Blessing’s grandfather and former boxer who teaches our heroine everything she knows about boxing. Another highlight for me is Demola Adedoyin turn as the nefarious fixer Gowon, who has a menacing scar and is ruthlessly efficient at carrying out his tasks. Some of the film’s biggest laugh comes from Bucci Franklin as Dagogo a crime lord of sorts who is responsible for bringing the girls down to the path of crime. Charles Etubiebi (an Ojukokoro alumni), plays a ritualist that is hilariously connected to the political brouhaha is definitely a scene stealer and at the butt of the films best joke. Ikye Mike performance as an unfortunate victim to one Blessing’s destructive punch also left me in stitches . Linda Ejiofor and Meg Otanwa also anchor the story down as Oby and Hannah who slowly form a bond with Blessing and help her push forward despite how dreary their situation is.
- The film has solid direction and its cinematography is definitely a step above the previous work as it paints Abeokuta as place that is shrouded with beauty and danger through some great shots. The movie paces itself very well and effectively tells its story as its cleverly segmented into the chapters which makes it easier for the audience to follow. While it is a different story from Ojukokoro he still manages to take elements from his first outing as the narrative jabs the audience with twists and turns and comes packed with many tense sequences that will keep the audience on its toes. Like his previous opus, Dare successfully blends elements of action and dark comedy into a tasty concoction that is a step above the rest.
- The dialogue in Knock Out Blessing is amongst some of the best I have heard in a Nigerian movie, as it was truly authentic. A neat touch of this movie is that it is almost exclusively spoken in Pidgin English and in a few instances only deviated if it made sense for the character to talk in their native tongue or English which once again mirrors real life conversations that Nigerians young and old have.
- Some of the effects displayed in some of the film’s climatic action sequences were rather tacky and took me out of the experience a bit. They weren’t bad enough to harm the overall the experience but its something that is worth noting and something I am sure will improve as Nollywood keeps advancing.
- The third act of the film whilst still thoroughly entertaining is ultimately damaged by a rather confusing and infuriating conclusion that ultimately gives the audience a bad case of blue balls. I just hope the movie does well enough to warrant a sequel and I think it has the potential to do so with the success of films like King of Boys which has shown that romantic dramas and or comedies should not be accepted as the only formula for success in the Nigerian box office.
Despite missing a few blows near the end, Knock Out Blessing ultimately wins thanks to solid direction and terrific performances from its cast. This action and dark comedy is an exciting romp that gets the true distinction of being a Nollywood classic. This is one that should not be missed.