Gangs of Lagos Review – Amazon Prime’s first African Original is a compelling, gritty crime drama

By Emma Vine
Published: April 8, 2023 (Last updated: February 27, 2024)


Gangs of Lagos is a gritty crime drama that will entice you as much as it will disturb you.

We review the 2023 Amazon Prime Video film Gangs of Lagos, which contains no spoilers.

On April 7, 2023, Amazon Prime Video released Gangs of Lagos, the platform’s first African Original film. Directed by Jadesola Osiberu, the movie explores friendship, love, loss, and the will to survive.

Gangs of Lagos Review and Plot Summary

In Isale Eko, Obalola (Tobi Bakre), and Ify (Chike-Ezekpeazu Osebuka), two friends who consider themselves street brothers, do what they can to make ends meet.

This is the voiceover given by Obalola as he recounts his childhood and an incident where the pair robbed a woman of her purse while she sat in her car with her daughter.

The town is run by gangs closely associated with political leaders who hold much power. With that comes rivalries with Obalola, Ify, and their childhood friend Gift (Adesua Etomi-Wellington), amidst the chaos.

Obalola’s father tragically died when he was a baby. But, much to his mother’s dismay, he makes no qualms about the fact that he was always going to follow in his footsteps. Obalola aspired to be a street king and always had a hunch that he, too, would die young.

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From childhood, Obalola was loyal to a fault and looked up to gang member Nino (Tayo Faniran), who, like Obalola, shied away from violence unless it was vital.

On the other hand, Nino’s fellow gang member, Kazeem (Olarotimi Fakunle), embraced it. Once Obalola reaches adulthood and, along with childhood friends Ify and Gift, becomes a gang member, Kazeem constantly puts him in danger.

While he and other street members are out fighting, Kazeem and his family live like royalty.

Above all else, Obalola holds Kazeem’s daughter Teni (Bimbo Ademoye), in high regard and has been in love with her since he was a kid. To protect her, he is recruited as security and drives her around.

Still, regardless of wanting to keep her safe, he can’t help but resent his position, questioning if Kazeem is the father figure he claims to be.

And as a viewer, you can’t help but root for Obalola, even though it’s evident from the start that he’s a criminal. But, like many of the most beloved characters in the film that have made questionable decisions, he possesses some redeemable qualities that the audience can resonate with.

Two of Gangs of Lagos’s greatest strengths are its tone and mood setting. Obalola’s narration throughout his life instantly gives a window into his thoughts and feelings, forming a connection with the audience from the get-go.

Likewise, the camera movement and cinematography transport the audience to the town of Isale Eko, allowing viewers to live in the shoes of each character as the story unfolds.

Another asset is how excellent the cast is. The adult actors are spitting images of their younger cast members, an aspect of filmmaking widely overlooked yet essential to building believability. The end result is a seamless transformation of the characters from childhood to adulthood.

Bakre, Etomi-Wellington, Faniran, and Fakunle are standouts in the film, complementing each other flawlessly, with Gangs of Lagos showcasing why African films are a must-have niche.

Is the 2023 film Gangs of Lagos Good or Bad?

Gangs of Lagos is a gritty, compelling crime drama that will have you instantly invested in the story and its characters.

You will wonder where the world wrapped in violence, uncertainty, and chaos, will take you next, with some surprises along the way. It is well-directed and acted, excelling in tone and mood setting.

Is Gangs of Lagos Worth Watching?

Gangs of Lagos is worth the watch, though if you don’t like violence and gore, this film won’t be for you. The story is gripping enough to where it would still be as solid if the graphic imagery wasn’t a part of it, which speaks volumes for the plot.

What did you think of the 2023 film Gangs of Lagos? Comment below.

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