Movie Review: Living In Bondage (Breaking Free)

November 15, 2019

I remember rolling my eyes so hard they almost got lost in the back of my head the first time I heard Ramsey Nouah was spearheading the production for a sequel to the Nollywood classic, Living In Bondage. Other than it seeming like a shameless cash grab, I saw no reason for it. Up until I was seated in the theatre, waiting for the movie to start, I was willing to bet my testicles that it was going to be bad.

I’m just happy I didn’t place that bet because it would’ve been “bye bye, nuts.

The opening scene sets the tone for the rest of the movie.

It starts with an aerial shot of a car driving through a winding bush path, while all that can be heard is the voice of a little girl singing an eerie Igbo folk song. When the car comes to a halt, the driver is revealed to be a man named Obinna Omego (played by Enyinna Nwigwe). He has driven his daughter to the middle of a forest with the promise of showing her a waterfall. He tells her to close her eyes in preparation for the surprise. When she does this, he beheads her.

The movie’s writing team (Nicole Asinugo and C.J. Obasi) took advantage of the original movie’s pop culture juggernaut status by not including flashbacks or time-consuming exposition from its characters. Whether or not you’ve seen the original, the second Andy Okeke appears onscreen (played by Kenneth Okonkwo), you just know that he’s someone important to the plot.

Solid direction, production design, and music (it actually has its own OST album) aside, one thing that sets this movie apart is the performances. Relatively unknown actor, Swanky JKA, leads the cast with a tour de force performance as Nnamdi Okeke (the son of the first movie’s protagonist). A performance that’s sure to catapult him to A-list status. His chemistry with his cousin, Toby (played by Shawn Faqua) and his love interest, Kelly (played by rapper and former MBGN, Munachi Abii) was so intense and believable that when the time came for the character to pick which loved one he wanted to sacrifice, I was hella stressed.

Veteran actor and first-time director, Ramsey Nouah, proved that multi-tasking is no herculean task for him as he expertly switched between directing the movie and playing the character of Richard Williams, an enigmatic, world-class billionaire and spiritual leader of the occult group known as The Six. His performance is reminiscent of Al Pacino’s as John Milton/Satan in 1997’s The Devil’s Advocate.

The only weak links in the cast are Kenneth Okonkwo (whose acting seemingly hasn’t evolved in the last 27 years) and David Jones David, whose performance as Uzoma, the nuerotic journalist and blogger who uncovers and exposes the activities of The Six to the world, is a little bit too over the top.

In Conclusion:

Despite an overly familiar story, Living In Bondage: Breaking Free separates itself from all the shiny garbage coming from new Nollywood with a cast who brought its A-game and a director who had a clear vision of what he wanted: to make a standalone film that pays homage to its predecessor by tackling the same themes it did, but in a modern setting.

This movie is a masterclass in how to properly handle sequels. Was it absolutely necessary? No. Am I fucking ecstatic that it now exists to show others how it’s done? HELL YES!

Living In Bondage: Breaking Free is currently showing in cinemas around Nigeria.

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