The tragic death of their parents launches twins Akin and Wale into a life of petty crime on the streets. Their paths diverge when Wale joins the police force, and Akin remains on the other side of the law, shuffling in and out of prison throughout his adult life. By the time Akin is released again, Wale is promoted to the elite SWAT team. And as Akin joins the Ojuju Boys, a feared group of robbers, the brothers’ unsteady truce erupts.
A crime drama with estranged brothers, high-stakes heists, and the standard hype that accompanies big budget Nollywood movies naturally requires that one approach with a healthy dose of skepticism, but Loukman Ali’s Brotherhood, surprisingly, is a blend of heart and capable storytelling.
As Akin and Wale, respectively, former Big Brother Naija reality TV star Tobi Bakre and rapper-cum-actor Folarin “Falz” Falana make a fine pair even though the film does not feature much of their past. Instead, we get peeks woven into the dialogue, in arguments and reminiscence — a welcome style that nevertheless is not adequate as scenes of Falana and Bakre are tragically scant. There are snide remarks, each brother seeking to land the last jab, but these only form the surface of an unexplored tension. It is a lack that would have made for excellent character work — especially with the mediation of their aunt (a competent Ronke Oshodi Oke) — and rendered the final scenes more powerful.
Falana does passable work outside his comedic comfort, as his Wale juggles a place on the SWAT team, a romance with his boss’s daughter, the growing notoriety of the Ojuju Boys, and his brother’s re-entry into his life. He is mostly collected, except when interacting with his brother.
Bakre, who won Best Drama Actor at the AMVCAs for his work here, has the much showier role. He leans into Akin’s charisma and snark. He becomes the brains behind the Ojuju Boys’ operations. Sparks fly in his relationship with Toni Tones’ gunslinging Goldie. O.C. Ukeje, as Akin’s old friend Izra, matches Bakre in both light and prickly exchanges; his is a noteworthy performance. Against stronger takes on the crime boss archetype, comedian-turned-musician-and-actor Bright Okpocha’s Shadow is predictable and wanting. But unlike with Wale’s tepid SWAT bunch, the conflict within the Ojuju Boys make for some of the best parts of the film.
Brotherhood is one for spectacle, and while the action scenes don’t quite cut it, they achieve a fair sense of thrill. The relationships that should be at its center often take a backseat to the plot, which manages to be well-paced. Despite the riveting enough drama and sometimes snappy dialogue, there are holes in the story: a member of the crew forgotten in jail, the elusive tactics behind the heists, the deaths of the twins’ parents.
One can’t help but wonder how much more Brotherhood could have said about the enduring bonds of family, the strengths of siblinghood, how they could be strained but not broken. Nonetheless, Ali takes a worthy shot at telling a memorable story. ♦
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