Review by David Baldwin
Orah (Oyin Oladejo) is an illegal immigrant from Nigeria living and working in Toronto as a cab driver, although it’s more of a front for the money laundering scheme she is helping some nefarious characters do. Why does she do it? Because they have promised to bring her teenage son Lucky (who she has not seen since he was a baby) to Canada for a better life…at some point. When that time finally comes, the deal goes bad and Lucky ends up dead. Confused and distraught, Orah decides to take vengeance on her employers and anyone else involved in his death.
That may sound like a lot — this is before I even attempt to unpack the political malfeasance, the government corruption and Orah’s own dark past that all play into the film’s 95-minute running time — and all of that plotting and endless exposition gets in the way of the genuinely thrilling and unsettling picture Writer/Director Lonzo Nzekwe has concocted here. Part of it feels ripped from the headlines, and part of it feels like wish fulfillment. Wherever Nzekwe took his inspiration, he takes too long setting things into motion and once all the pieces are where they need to be, he never seems to spend enough time with Orah tearing down the system that took her son from her. I understand his hesitation in not wanting to dwell in something that grim and his deeper intention of telling a much larger story; I just wish it was better streamlined and did not get lost in the weeds so often.
That said, the film looks great and Nzekwe gets some solid performances out of Lucky Ejim, who plays the villainous Bami Hazar, and Somekele Iyamah-Idhalama, who plays his top enforcer in the coldest and most battle ready performance I have seen so far this year. They both pale in comparison to Oladejo however, who is absolutely captivating from moment one right up until the devastating seconds before we fade to credits. She is positively ferocious and calculated in her performance, making you feel the depths of her sadness as much as you do the breadth of her vengeance. The anguish and disappointment she carries with her hangs over every scene, saying everything better than words ever could. I wish Orah solely focused on her and her journey, and featured a whole lot less of Ejim’s political shenanigans and the fallout that goes with them (which somehow feels a little far-fetched in the era we live in). When Nzekwe keeps the camera on Oladejo, we marvel at her creating magic. When he takes the camera off her, we are just forced to bide our time waiting for her to come back.
Orah is now playing theatrically at the following theatres in Ontario:
Cineplex Cinemas Vaughan
Cineplex Eglinton Town Centre Cinemas