BY ANDREW OKE
Going to the cinema to see a movie with the title ATM: Authentic Tentative Marriage and starring Alexx Ekubo and some Oyinbo Princess, expectations were of course extremely low. From the title and cast, I was sure the film was going to be mind numbingly stupid, but I expected to find solace in the fact that the film would at least be funny. I was wrong.
Lancelot Imasuen is one of those people you are expected to respect in Nollywood. He answers to being a ‘stakeholder’ in the industry. He’s been around for about two decades and has helmed respected films like Private Sin (2003) and Games Men Play (2006). He’s fondly refered to as ‘Da Guvnor’. He’s supposed to know what he’s doing. If ATM is anything to go by, that last statement is debatable.
ATM tells the story of a money hungry 20 something; Robinson, played by Alexx Ekubo, who with the help of his uncle Gbenga (Francis Odega) and girlfriend; Caro (Yvonne Jegede), plans to con a seemingly unsuspecting, rich Caucasian girl from the UK; Emilia (Oyinbo Princess) into marrying him, with the intention of making off with half of all she owns when he divorces her. Unbeknownst to him, she’s fully aware of his plan and turns the tables, threatening to turn Robinson in to the EFCC and forcing him to become her personal house boy/driver/man slave in exchange for her dropping his case.
The premise of this film is pretty thin, so going in, I at least expected to get a film with an abundance of jokes that would force me to turn my brain off, throw my head back and laugh hysterically. I got the exact opposite. This film is completely devoid of any form of humour or joy. Every attempt to make the audience laugh falls flat on the floor and only makes the already painful experience of watching the movie even more difficult. Even comedy welterweight, Francis Odega leaves a lot to be desired in the humour department, which has led me to believe that he is only funny when he is saying his trademark phrase; “Gerrarrahia mhen”. Amusingly, the only time anyone in the cinema actually laughed was when he said exactly that.
The lack of successfully executed humour in the film is made even worse by the uncomfortable performances by the film’s leads; Alexx Ekubo and Oyinbo Princess. As most people (including Alexx Ekubo) know, on a good day Alexx Ekubo is incapable of giving a decent acting performance, so putting him in a role that would require things like comedic timing, wit and actual acting is like asking a field mouse to lift a six tonne elephant; he just can’t do it. Oyinbo Princess makes her debut Nollywood performance as an overweight white girl that speaks awkward sounding pidgin; the role that she will most likely play in every subsequent Nollywood film that she gets cast in. She seems completely out of place in this movie and she would probably seem completely out of place in any movie seeing as she doesn’t have a single acting bone in her body and she delivers her lines like she doesn’t understand what she’s saying. It’s almost as if she was just picked up at random by the director on a street in Peckham and sent down to Nigeria to shoot this movie.
ATM is barely 70 minutes long, but it felt like it went on for at least four hours because of how utterly boring it is. It just keeps going on and on, from one scene to the next for what seems like an eternity until it finally comes to an end. Absolutely nothing exciting or interesting happens in this movie, so I was not at all surprised when a third of the audience got up and left the cinema forty minutes in. The rest of us were left to fight the battle against sleep, a battle most of us lost.
Of all the Nigerian movies that have been released in cinemas so far this year, this has got to be the laziest. The editing is erratic and extremely sloppy, completely disrupting the flow from one scene to the other; the sound is almost always too loud; and chunks of the score are directly stolen from The Lord of the Rings trilogy and Titanic. (If a director as ‘big’ as Lanslot Imasuen is still stealing American movie soundtracks at this stage of his career, hope dims for Nollywood.) A movie this sloppily and lazily made is indicative of one thing; no one involved in the making of this film cared about making a half-decent film. They knew they were getting everything wrong, but they didn’t care because of their complete disrespect and disregard for fans of Nollywood.
Lancelot Oduwa Imaseun’s ATM is a laughable attempt at comedy, and it would hamper the careers of everyone involved with it if not for the fact that almost no one is going to see it.