Jagun Jagun: The Warrior (2023)

Jagun Jagun: The Warrior (2023)

An ambitious but sluggish Nigerian epic whose reach exceeds its grasp

4.2

Movie

Nigeria
Yoruba
Action, Drama, Fantasy
2023
ADEBAYO TIJANI, TOPE ADEBAYO
Bukunmi Oluwashina, Femi Adebayo, Ibrahim Yekini Itele
134 min

TLDR

An abundance of heart alone can't make an epic action movie, but someone tell Hollywood that neither can an abundance of money without heart.

What it's about

A young man with the ability to speak to and control trees seeks to avenge his father's death by training under a brutal warlord.

The take

It would be unfair to focus only on Jagun Jagun's obvious budget limitations (relative to the blockbusters churned out from the United States), when there's clearly still much creativity at work here. Impressively lived-in production design, solid fight choreography, and a go-for-broke lead performance by Lateef Adedimeji ensure that there's always something worth looking at—not an easy feat when a movie is constantly looking for the most cost-effective ways to pull off its admittedly complex vision.

Unfortunately, the choppiness of the filmmaking here really just catches up with the movie's sincere attempts at storytelling; inconsistent sound, poor editing, and lots of awkward staging make Jagun Jagun more of a chore to watch than anything. And it doesn't help that the story they're telling—while compelling in its broad strokes of revenge, betrayal, and the endless cycle of war—often gets caught up in scenes that lack momentum. We're lucky to be able to see more African films on major streamers, but this is one that still seems to be trying to imitate an established style instead of finding its own voice.

What stands out

Lateef Adedimeji easily stands out as the film's best performer, committing so fully to the screenplay's big emotions that he makes it past any sort of awkwardness and manages to embody his character with a full, open heart. His performance (and those of the rest of the cast) are also helped along by the fact that the Yoruba language can be great fun to listen to, with big feelings being communicated through unique turns of phrase. Still, Adedimeji and the film's other leading actors are stuck in a movie that can only give them so much space to perform before running into one of the movie's other obstacles.

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