Living In Bondage: Breaking Free

2019

4/5
Living In Bondage Breaking Free

Summary

Living in Bondage: Breaking Free is a sequel to the 27-year-old, two-part movie Living in Bondage. The movie follows the story of Nnamdi, son of Andy Okeke (the protagonist in the original movie), whose desperation to live the good life is setting him on the same treacherous path as his father

Production: Play Entertainment Network, Natives Filmworks, Michelangelo Productions

Direction: Ramsey Nouah

Starring: Swanky JKA, Kenneth Okonkwo, Ramsey Nouah

Release Date: 8 November

Genre: Thriller

Run time: 2hrs

Rating: 4/5

Review

If you had/have skeptical reservations about seeing Living in Bondage: Breaking Free, it would be more than understandable. The Nigerian movie industry has spent much of its time making films bordering on the occult and rituals, many of which are overdrawn, overplayed, bland, and rather off-putting. And the Living in Bondage sequel was always going to centre on that. But this sequel to the 27-year-old original isn’t just about getting mystical and is worth the promise of debuting director Ramsey Nouah, and all the hype.

Breaking Free centres on Nnamdi Okeke (Swanky JK), who’s lost his job and has dreams of the luxury life. Breaking Free stands quite apart from the first film of 1992, but there are still correlations and some verisimilitude, Nnamdi is the son of Andy Okeke (played by Kenneth Okonkwo, who was also the star of the 1992 pic), and unlike the one centred on his father, Nnamdi isn’t exactly wallowing in penury, but rather just wants luxury.

And credit to the film for giving us a picture of Nnamdi in that way; he knows about various types of alcohol that he can’t afford, he has knowledge of cars above his pay-grade. For most part of the film, we see that Nnamdi isn’t so much just thirsting about the high life, but rather overawed by it; watch him arrive at a party in a Ferrari, yet marvel at a fleet of parked Rolls-Royces. See him look a bit out of place and awkward at the party itself. This is the life he craves, yet it’s the life he doesn’t quite know.

Nnamdi is aided into the life of affluence by, among others, Richard Williams, CEO of Zion Railways. Played by director Ramsey Nouah, Richard is the head of the spiritual group that affords people the good life (at a price), called The Brotherhood. Throughout the film, Nouah’s character is quite a standout act, introduced into the film with a round of applause, delivered by himself. There’s something of the likeable super villain about him; he’s the devil that quotes the Bible amidst lines of The Godfather, his demeanour is unchanging and unfazed. Drink in hand and Cuban Monte Cristo cigar in mouth, no situation is enough to get him to lose his cool. He’s as powerful as he’s mysterious, no one quite knows who he is, where he’s from, if he works for any superiors.

Breaking Free has inevitable bouts of spirituality in it, but it’s all done with minimum fuss, and there’s little need for histrionics. From the spiritual conventions to Richard display bits of his powers, there’s no overplaying or over-cooking, those acts that usually seem out of place run well with this film (hence Richard’s cheeky ‘this isn’t Nollywood’ quote in the film).

Breaking Free thrives in many areas, not least the chemistry between characters. We see the closeness between Nnamdi and his brother Tobe (Shawn Faqua), who basically bounce of each other in scenes in which they are together. The relationship between Nnamdi and Kelly (Munachi Abii) has true chemistry, right from the off, and hardly seems forced – even the sex scene looks genuine.

Breaking Free also deserves massive credit in the area of sound. Themes depict the intensity of scenes, sometimes you could take your eyes off the screen and the prevailing sound would give an inkling of what’s at stake in a scene. The dialogue also doesn’t feel, the constant transitioning between English and Igbo and vice-versa hardly misses a beat or looks out of place.

Perhaps the biggest flaw of the movie is that fact that for all of its deluxe acting and directing, Breaking Free doesn’t have that much in terms of being relatable. Aside from Nnamdi’s aspirations to be rich and affluent, that’s just about as far as it goes in terms of resonating with the audience.

At the end of everything; Nnamdi realises the price of luxury is one he can’t quite pay, attempts to end it all, but doesn’t quite do it, and ends up in the hospital. Meanwhile, (some) members of The Brotherhood have been identified, but Richard is still very the unknown.

Breaking Free does a good job of not ending with closure, and keeping part of the mystery alive. Has Nnamdi paid the price already, or will he still have to? What about Richard? Is he fleeing, or just going on a trip? Questions remain unanswered, and rightly so.

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