Emboldened by the financial success of Alakada Reloaded from last year, actress/producer, Toyin Abraham has reteamed with FilmOne for another clumsy attempt at filmmaking. This time, Abraham trades the gloss of reality television and faux luxury for a blurry snapshot of life in a ghetto beachside community.
For The Ghost and the Tout, Abraham casts herself as Isila, a street urchin who bites off more than she can chew when she comes in contact with Mike (Sambassa Nzeribe), a supernatural being who is unable to crossover to the supernatural side. Seeking some closure from his gruesome death at the hands of unknown henchmen, Mike seeks out Isila’s assistance- she is the only person who can see him- in solving the mystery of his murder.
Ranting about all of the ways that The Ghost and the Tout does not hold up as a proper film would be redundant. It would be all too insincere too, as by this time, those who pay money- this reviewer inclusive- to see a film produced by, and starring Toyin Abraham know exactly what to expect. Hint: Not much.
Truth be told, there is hardly anything to write home about The Ghost and the Tout.
Directed by Charles Uwagbai, The Ghost and the Tout is a considerable improvement from the pits of Alakada Reloaded. A coherent story eventually manages to coalesce from the rubble of Ms Abraham’s cash grabby paws and after a dismal first hour, the film picks up with genuine laughs coming from watching Abraham and her ensemble cast make fools of themselves. Her chemistry with Nzeribe is pleasant enough to watch and the boasts the rare breakthrough moment.
This is no accident. The story is Abraham’s but the screenplay appears to have gone through multiple revisions with at least five persons- including Biodun Stephens- taking credit for it. The result is a messy, sloppy, run through of familiar tropes that manages to weave in some element of surprise while leaving viewers wondering what could have been had the project been left in competent hands.
The inciting incident for The Ghost and the Tout does not happen until over an hour of precious reel time has gone by. Anyone who walks away by the shoddiness and lack of focus would be justified. For those who stay, the rewards aren’t much, but at least some effort is invested into making it an entertaining time out. Especially for fans of made for television melodramatic Nollywood drivel.
The acting is dialed up to the loudest volume with Abraham doing the most. She only knows one way to express herself and this role gives her all the excuse to scream and over emote and do everything to the maximum. You may get a headache. You may enjoy it. The supporting characters are worse. There is a recurring sub-plot involving an uber-jealous girlfriend given to irrational bursts of violence that is near impossible to watch and brings out the worst tendencies of Abraham’s particular brand of filmmaking. Loud, barely written, badly shot with tons and tons of barely there acting.
The writing is so scattershot it defeats even the very reliable talents of Sambassa Nzeribe. As the sparring partner to Abraham’s Isila, Nzeribe as Mike, brings some level of prestige to the picture and does his best to keep the film grounded. It is hard work, considering the circumstances and he doesn’t always succeed, but at least, his efforts are visible.
A project like this thrives on plenty of goodwill, plus called in favors, so Abraham and her director, Charles Uwagbai set up a revolving door of cameo appearances from some of the biggest names in drama (Chioma Akpotha,) comedy (Chigul Omeruah, Chiwetalu Agu,) music (Saheed Osupa,) and on the Internet (Bobrisky, Lasisi Elenu). Many of these persons are included solely for pop culture relevance and even when the stakes are practically nonexistent, it is easy to separate the wheat from the chaff. No prizes for guessing what side of the divide the Instagram comedians fall.
Not that there is any significant difference to be discerned. Nobody does projects like this one for the quality and everyone is pretty much slumming out. The Ghost and the Tout arrives at a hurried, unimaginative ending that would be relieving if it weren’t so shoddy. Ultimately, the existence of the film is simply proof that throwing money or influence around does little to help a defective product.
It matters little though as the fans will be in line for the next product. It seems Ms Abraham is on to something.
Wilfred Okiche is a medic, reader, writer, journalist, culture critic, and occasional ruffler of feathers. One of the most influential critics working in the Nigerian culture space, his writing has appeared extensively in platforms like YNaija.com and 360nobs.com. Okiche has provided editorial assistance to the UK Guardian and has had his work published in African Arguments, Africa is a Country and South Africa’s City Press. He has received trainings and acquired experience in multimedia and online journalism. He also appears on the culture television show, Africana Literati. He has participated at critic programs in Lagos, Durban and Rotterdam.