Black Mail, written and directed by Obi Emelonye, is a slick, London-set plot-driven thriller with an appealing central character played by Nigerian star OC Ukeje.
Not-So-Private Livesby Alexa Dalby
CAUTION: Here be spoilers
Black Mail has a contemporary though rather derivative theme: Russian hackers blackmail a black film star shooting a film in London, who fears losing his career, his family and maybe his masculinity as a result of the disgrace of being caught watching porn. The film’s dual plots of cyber crime and trafficking women into prostitution are linked through two of the Russian characters.
Aerial establishing shots over London landmarks punctuate the action and move scenes from one non-specific low-budget, inner-city location to another.
All-too-fallible actor Ray Chinda (OC Ukeje; Half of a Yellow Sun, Gone Too Far) has the kind of well-to-do middle-class black British family that has oat milk on the breakfast table. His wife (Julia Holden) is a high-flying solicitor and they have two well-behaved children. Chinda’s manager Reuben, who has the computer skills and advice Chinda lacks, is played by an underused Alessandro Babalola (Wrath of Men, Top Boy). The chief Russian hacker is portrayed as sadistic and misogynistic, exploiting both male and female victims with kompromat on all of them.
As a whole, the film is male-orientated in its violence and with female characters who are only secondary, though it shows wider ambitions to resonate beyond a thriller into contemporary societal comment.
Black Mail has the widest UK release for an independent black British film or a Nollywood movie. It is released on 100 screens on 26 August 2022 in the UK and 2 September 2022 in Nigeria. www.blackmailmovie.com