The Black Book (2023)

The Black Book (2023)

A Nigerian revenge thriller seeking justice against corrupt institutions



Action, Mystery, Thriller
Ade Laoye, Alex Usifo Omiagbo, Bimbo Manuel
124 min

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Yeah, sometimes the film gets generic, and there are some shots that needed a second take, but ultimately? It’s a pretty decent action thriller. I’m glad that titles like these are available on Netflix.

What it's about

After the police murder and frame his son for a kidnapping, grieving deacon Paul Edima hunts down his murderers to clear his son’s name, with the help of earnest journalist Vic Kalu.

The take

When the system messes with you personally, it’s such a powerful fantasy to be able to settle things with your own hands. To be strong enough to retaliate, and once things are settled, to be strong enough to be left alone, not to be messed with. The Black Book depicts this revenge fantasy, reminiscent of Liam Neeson’s Taken, albeit with corrupt police. The Nigerian action thriller isn’t afraid to go hard, with threats of splitting a person in half by a table saw, dramatic shoot-outs, and fight sequences. However, what makes the thriller work is that all these action sequences are intended to be the reckoning of corrupt institutions. There are some messy parts, certain shots that included some bad takes. Despite this, The Black Book still proves to be entertaining enough to forgive these mishaps.

What stands out

A lot of the plot points in The Black Book would be familiar to fans of action films. Former assassins that left that life, clueless do-gooders, and bad actions done for the “greater good” are tropes that have been used again and again in films. When not done well, these cliches can end up as shallow posturing and can induce eye-rolls from its audience. However, The Black Book takes these character tropes and actually does something with it. Paul Edima may be the classic former assassin returning for revenge, but, without spoiling too much, he actually does ensure justice, not just for himself, but for previous victims. Vic Kalu may be that over-eager, out-of-place journalist, but she actually wants to do some good, and this desire naturally stems from the injustice done to her mother. The Black Book’s use of these tropes may sometimes lead to predictable turns, but these turns tend to be the right ones to take to achieve a satisfying end.

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