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Review: “Knocking On Heaven’s Door” Doesn’t Excite, Despite Its Good Intentions

BY IFE OLUJUYIGBE

I have observed a pattern in many Nollywood movies:

The story begins, whetting your appetite with some faux action. You become hopeful; this should be good, you say to Yourself. Yourself responds with an affirmative nod.

Then the movie gets around its thirtieth minute, you hit a junction, more like the conflict of the plot, that is repeated a thousand times till the movie is over an hour or so later. At this moment, you’re already doing a yawn call-and-response with Yourself.

Finally, after agonizing minutes of zizzes, the resolution begins, and Yourself goes ‘Praise ye Jah!’ but then you soon realize how forced and unrealistic it starts to get in an attempt to create a twist or some sort of ghen-ghen moment. Alas, it’s too late to back out, the movie is two hours gone. So you gulp up the rest of the movie, count your losses and move on.

This is the exact pattern the 2014 movie, Knocking on Heaven’s Door follows. Co-produced by Ini Edo and Emem Isong, and directed by veteran Desmond Elliot, this movie tells the story of Debbie, a brilliant soulful gospel singer and her husband Moses who also sings and plays the keyboard. While they are both highly respected members of their church choir, Moses physically abuses Debbie behind closed doors, occasionally plunging her into miscarriages and fainting spells. On one of such occasions, her best friend and doctor, Wunmi, is summoned and gets suspicious when she finds finger patterns on her face and a story that doesn’t add up. Still, Debbie barely admits that she is being molested.
Cool story. But this is where the back and forth begins. She tries to leave, he begs her, they sing, everyone is happy. He hits her again, she tries to run, he pleads with her, she kisses him. And the cycle goes on and on and on.

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Oh, and there’s Tom, who is a famous music producer addicted to drugs, alcohol, women and Debbie. He convinces her to sing inspirational songs for his label, and by some psychic power knows that her husband is violent with her.

Eventually, Debbie moves in with him when she tries to flee from Moses and discovers that Wumi isn’t in the country. In the process, she falls for him, but stays faithful to her husband, telling Tom that he cannot measure up to her man-standards because he isn’t born again. This makes Tom begin to seek God and change. Coincidentally, this is when Moses reconnects with his old-time girlfriend, Brenda, who kills him in self-defense during a rendezvous-gone-bad. Then she feigns a male voice, places a call to Debbie, which Tom picks, threatens to burn all her stuff is she doesn’t show up immediately, and runs away.

In a bid to protect the love of his life, Tom goes over to Moses’ house without telling Debbie. He finds him dead, and the very efficient Nigerian police arrives just in time to arrest him. One too many coincidences, if you ask me.

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While Majid turns into a singer in prison and lip-syncs to a cry for help song, repeatedly missing his lines, Debbie mourns her husband, and then comes to prison to profess her trust and love for Tom. And as if the end couldn’t get any cheesier, Brenda is struck by a pseudo-madness that causes her to confess to her crime and have Tom released. Why they would opt for such a clichéd and shallow resolution totally beats me.

The story of Knocking on Heaven’s Door, despite not being the most original, is beautiful for its message and relatability. In a time where domestic violence is on an all-time high, movies like this show that these struggles are real and that people must know what to do when faced with them. I enjoy the musical twist to it, even though there are moments where it seems a tad improbable. I commend the attention to detail musically too, and how the producer/director found subtle ways to include the songs into the movie without being in-your-face about it. However, the radio scene with Yaw is as ridiculous as it is annoying and the fact that Debbie carries the same hair after six months goes to show their level of attention to other details.

While Adesua Etomi and Blossom Chukwujekwu give ovation-worthy performances as the estranged couple, Majid Michel is utterly stereotypical in his character as Tom, giving the same body languages he has given in all his other ten million feature films, and so does Ini Edo as Brenda. It would seem like these roles have their names tagged specifically to them, and in time it becomes a bore.

I like how the mood changes within this movie. There are moments that crack you up, such as when Tom is reading the bible on one hand and smoking on the other, while the very Christian Moses is getting high on alcohol about the same time. The moment where Debbie finally flees the house in her husband’s clothes and the theatrics surrounding it also makes for an emotional masterpiece.

Knocking on Heaven’s Door, as with other movies, has a lot of good intentions. Even though it reeks of inconsistencies and would have been a lot more fun without the incessant back-and-forths that do nothing but lengthen and stretch the plot, it manages to pull through on its good acting and good music that makes it fairly enjoyable. If I had to give it a grade, I’ll give a 49D.

Fair.

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