Agesinkole: King of Thieves, Femi Adebayo’s current magnum opus could really have been anything; an ambitious film without matching execution; filled with action without defending its own mediocrity; with a promising premise but frostbitten in its mountainous set; with notoriety without subtlety; haughty gait with little narrative; star-studded without substance; held back by its own language. Anything, really!
It practically had all the recipes to turn itself into a sour soup but with Tope Adebayo and Adebayo Tijani as Directors, it tickles enthusiasm. You’re tempted to serve them extra kudos if you consider the many balls that the film attempts to hit out of the park especially when you consider that notable filmmaker, Ted Kotcheff once said; “Everything about filmmaking tries to distract you from that first fine rapturous vision you have of the film.”Let me get something off my chest here. And this is weird for a review to start off, applauding the cinematography. But this is the magic of ‘Agesinkole: King of Thieves’. The Directors seems to have given a brief to Director of Photography, Idowu Adedapo – known for his amazing works in King of Boys and Oloture – to lend much scale and grandeur to the film; such that it drives the audience closer even if the film by its story, acting or directing fails to.
However, ‘Agesinkole: King of Thieves’ isn’t a terrible film. The performances weren’t shitty. Nevertheless, the cinematography elevated not just the story but the performance of the actors. When it opens to the mountains of Akinmorin set as the fictional Ajeromi town in its introductory scenes; little would you know that the DOP is setting you up for the grandeur that runs through the 110 minutes movie. It continues to mesmerize you with aerial and wide-angle shots that seek to remind you of the epic life of its protagonist, Agesinkole, and the misery that the hitherto prosperous Ajeromi town has been thrown into. Even the close-up shots like the one that captures ‘Abegunde’ essayed by the dependable Lateef Adedimeji in the climax; do not intrigue you less. Unlike, the movie, we’re done talking about the cinematography and I’d make less reference to it moving forward.
— Femi Adebayo (@realfemiadebayo) February 27, 2022
‘Agesinkole: The King of Thieves’ tells the story of its eponymous lead, a notorious bandit played by Femi Adebayo who wrote the story and co-wrote the screenplay with Yinka Olaoye. Agesinkole is vicious; spends more time on horseback than off it, throughout the film while ravaging the town; leaving many dead, injured or petrified at the very least. Prior to the bandit’s invasion, Ajeromi village enjoys relative peace and maintains a strong disdain for thieves. It considers the act a grave one. So much, the film’s first few scenes featured the execution of a handful of thieves. Its execution of thieves in itself – by invoking reptiles to bite convicts – will make you cringe; less for the act and more for the VFX. Can someone tell VFX Editor, Dimeji Ajibola that snakes do move with much more viscosity please? For someone who helmed a film, touted as Nollywood’s first sci-fi, ‘Ratnik’, you just would want to expect more delivery with the VFX.
Anyways, Ajeromi town had the first taste of Agesinkole’s viciousness just after the town got a new king. His first victims in the films are royals themselves who had come to celebrate with Oba Adegbite Tadenikaro. He would loot them and sprinkle a few injuries. Oba Adegbite is pivotal to this film. The havoc of Agesinkole not just only spans his rule; it affects him in more ways; it unsettles his dominion as King and raptures his manliness by taking his only son. When the character played by the ever-impressive, Odunlade Adekola chastises the Queen for allowing the Prince step out of the palace, mouthing the dialogue translated to; ‘you took away the only thing that makes people know that I’m not infertile’; you feel not just his pain but his helplessness. This helplessness is at the core of the character; not just for his ravaged town but for his tumbled home too. Perhaps even more for the latter than the former. In a scene where someone would recount Agesinkole’s conquest of the combined firmamental forces of witches, wizards and spirits, mentioning that the Queen is also a witch while an arrest of a thief – a severe abnormality in the value system of the town – is also being reported, the King would care more about the former and less about the latter.This weight of personal battles is central to the lead characters of ‘Agesinkole’. The entire premise in itself is altruistically personal; to Agesinkole himself who was re-incarnated to fight a battle he had lost to deceit in his past life and reset a new order; to Oba Adegbite, whose father, a kingmaker had orchestrated the deceit several decades earlier; to the valiant Oguntade played by Ibrahim Chatta; a progeny of Agesinkole who he would later fight; not by choice but as a punishment for stealing a deer to save his marriage, another personal endeavor. Hence, the thrill of the film would emerge from a clusterfuck of these intricate personal battles.
Meanwhile, more thrilling are the women of ‘Agesinkole: The King of Thieves’. Yinka Olaoye who shared writing credits with Femi Adebayo empowered the women in the film. They are not just props. They are just as valiant as their men. Notoriously or subtly, sometimes, they even trump them. Toyin Aimakhu as Queen Mobonuola takes more active steps to seek solutions to Agesinkole’s invasion than the King. Well, she’s a witch but Oba Adegbite here is proclaimed as the husband of the witches upon coronation.
BONUOLA IS NOT YOUR REGULAR QUEEN!
Wait until you meet Bonuola, @toyin_abraham1 in KING OF THIEVES (OGUNDABEDE)
Save the Date April8
— Femi Adebayo (@realfemiadebayo) March 9, 2022
Mobonuola offers a tough fight to Agesinkole. The closest Oba Adegbite comes to that, with no intent of pun, is in his dream. Alari, a widow is praised for handling her loss bravely and single-handedly raising her kids. Well, the praises come from Oguntade, whose wife, Ariyibi’s jealousy drives us to the climax of the film while the hitherto feeble Oguntade’s mother, would accelerate the journey by fortifying her son to match the tyrant, Agesinkole.
When Oguntade’s mother played by Peju Ogunmola says, ‘ogbon inu mi, okan, ete inu mi, egbaa, kaka ko fo san’le toju mi rorun, ma ya da ogbon okan inu mi’ – which loosely translate to, ‘I have just an ounce of wisdom in me, but with many tirades of gimmicks, rather than have you die while I’m alive, I’d rather put my ounce of wisdom to use’; it serves as an ode to the women in the film. This is further accentuated when Oguntade and Agesinkole’s faceoff hits a logjam. It pays homage to the power of a mother’s affection.
This is the epic wokeness of ‘Agesinkole: The King of Thieves’ and it screams through the movie. It thrives in its self-awareness and hardly loses focus of what it is meant to be – an entertainer, what it is meant to do – preach social messaging or where it is coming from – a cultural epic drama.
The scene of Agesinkole’s first attack on Ajeromi involving two royals who were guests at Oba Adegbite’s coronation had dialogues along the lines of ‘mo ti n ba won r’ode iwuye, ti Adegbite yii yato’. It’s reminiscent of the dialogue in ‘Bashorun Gaa‘, where Otun said, ‘mo ti n ba won re bara, ti Abiodun yii yato’. The magic of this, is how it transfers the virtues and charisma of Oba Abiodun Adegoolu from the culture-defining biopic to the film’s Oba Adegbite. To the discerning, you see Oba Adegbite of the fictional Ajeromi and his helplessness with Agesinkole’s tyranny in the light of the iconic Oba Adegoolu of the Oyo empire and his depth of misery in the hands of Bashorun Gaa. It actually helps that this movie is filmed in Akinmorin, Oyo town.
In the same vein, the scene where Ibrahim Chatta’s character, Oguntade was buried in order to become fortified and wrestle Agesinkole seems to have been referenced from Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther going through the same process in order to reclaim his seat from Erik Killmonger. It’s a battle of the right over the wrong; the good over the evil.
However, Agesinkole isn’t completely evil. He’s on a mission piqued by revenge and verified by self-righteousness. In fact, the marketing of the film with the liner, ‘King of Thieves’ would appear a misfit after understanding the protagonist’s raison d’être. He’s a wronged man, a royal as a matter of fact. He is completely inundated by the callousness of his trusted allies in his past life; so much as to be re-incarnated as a thief. When the character says what was translated to, ‘this is not about robbery anymore; this is war’; it feels like the movie had a jolt into its essence – a full scale, almost pervasive revenge. Meanwhile, noteworthy here is Ibrahim Yekini’s portrayal of ‘Abinbesu’, ‘Agesinkole’s best friend in his past life and second-in-command in the afterlife. His loyalty sets a new standard for what cinematic best friends should be. His performance is reminiscent of Jim Sarbh’s portrayal of Malik Kafur in the 2018 film, Padmavaat.What is somewhat a letdown is the lack of depth for Femi Adebayo’s character as Agesinkole in his afterlife, not as Prince Adeoye in his past life. The latter had enough; the former, none. Yes, reincarnated. When? Where did the insurmountable powers come from? Was he so tickled by revenge that he descended just as Oba Adegbite was sitting on the throne of his forefathers? If yes, how then did the famed notoriety build up? Has he ravaged villages before Ajeromi? Answers to this, would have rendered ‘Agesinkole: The King of Thieves’ a high swinging sixer.
Nonetheless, with a compelling story, thumbing dialogues – a quarter of it as incantations; the right kind of casting, impressive direction by the duo of Tope and Tijani, Adewale Adeleke’s spot on set designs and cinematography that reminds you of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s ‘Bajirao Mastani’ or SS Rajamouli’s ‘Bahubali’; ‘Agesinkole: The King of Thieves’ will charm you into its epic world.
By the way, watch out for the social message and layered political rhetoric in Femi Adebayo’s monologue in the climax scene. ‘Agesinkole: The King of Thieves’ is screening in cinemas near you.
Story By: Femi Adebayo
Written by: Femi Adebayo and Yinka Olaoye
Director: Adebayo Tijani and Tope Adebayo
Director of Photography: Idowu Adedapo
Release Date: 8th of April, 2022