Zubysil Productions Presents: Prince David Osei (Swaggito), Bibi Bright (Naomi), Gloria Safo (Claudia), Vivian Achor (Naomi’s Mom), Amanda Obeye (Babra). Story/Screenplay, Sunshine Olawore; Director of Photography, Titi Jeje Charm; Producer, Kwasi Nyarko Ofei; Director, Olarwore S. Sunshine (C2011)
In the hoods of Ghally, there once lived a tall hoodlum named Swaggita (Prince David Osei). He was lawless and brutal, and he once stabbed his neighbor, for a cell phone. Naomi (Bibi Bright) was locked up for twenty years for the crime she didn’t commit. The law couldn’t come close to Swagitto and his gang because they were ruthless and all. Swagitto and his ruffians regularly terrorize the hood. One day, Naomi, with a five-year long history of jail time, comes back to Asadu, and promises to put an end to the terror, and therefore called Swaggito to a good old duel at the ghetto square in the presence of all. Hoodlums tells the story.
Watch thirty minutes of this film, and it’ll remind you of the western movies we used to spend nickels, dimes, and shillings to watch at Roxy, Odeon. The good guy returns from a long hustle, his muscles all tight and his trigger finger, sharp, smart and quick like hell, to seek revenge on the one bad guy who had terrorized him and his family and the neighborhood for years. The bad guy has outlived most sheriffs and most US marshals sent to arrest him. But then comes this one day when the little fellow he had driven out of town or planted a crime on, and the little fellow had run for his dear life before he gets the hangman’s noose, at the town square. Now that the little man has returned, it is mano-a-mano.
The roughness she has endured in prison makes Naomi strong. She comes up on top, and the authorities reduced her twenty years when they found out she didn’t commit the crime. She had witnessed the stabbing by Swagitto and had rushed to the dying man, calling for help, when the police found her by him. Upon her arrival from prison, Naomi runs into Claudia (Gloria Safo) who knows the truth about her imprisonment and proposes to befriend her. Naomi is reluctant, but as a woman from the school of hard knocks, she feared nothing and based on her experience in prison, quickly joins Claudia and a gang of girls in the hood, even as her mother (Vivian Anchor) disapproves.
Swaggito and his gang of hoodlums live in an abandoned building, in the same ghetto (Asadu) but on the day he and his band of thieves crawl out of their holes to the main thoroughfare of the ghetto, marketers ran for their lives. Those holding phones by their ears are beaten and bloodied, and their telephones took from them.They made away with cases of beer, bags of rice, cigarette, money and all. The male hoodlums’ behavior is a direct opposite of the female thugs. On one or two occasions, Naomi chases a male gangster and retrieves a lady’s phone from him. Naomi and her girls carry out clean-up campaigns in the ghetto. She helps a teenage boy drug-addict into a good God-fearing and respectable kid. This behavior affronts Swaggito and his hoodlums and they send her a message, to “vamoose” from the neighborhood.
Naomi’s mother’s room is ram shackled, and threatened her with death. Swaggito and his boys scorch her house, and she has to go into hiding. To make things worse for Naomi, her friends who had earlier taken the oath of “all for one! One for all !” are so threatened by Swaggito and his wrath, they blamed their demise on Naomi and even threatened to abandon her and run for their lives. Naomi has a mission, and so she stays the course.
Swaggito’s men have got enough of the affronts from Naomi, and the girls and they’re tired of holding on as advised by their boss. He secretly fears the strength of Naomi. By entering the hood and challenging his power, he who has chased a law enforcement officer down and taken a criminal off a handcuff from him, and chased him out of the neighborhood, Naomi to him is a powerhouse. Secretly, Swagitto’s instinct tells him, the end is near. He knows as well as Naomi that he had stabbed the man and killed him, and now she’s back to take her revenge. He incurs shame from his friends enough and to get rid of Naomi, Swagitto kills one of Naomi’s friends, Babra (Amanda Obeye). Naomi’s pinned against the wall, and she doesn’t want to go back to jail. She invites Swagitto to a duel at the ghetto square, and Naomi beats Swaggito to a pulp. Police arrest him and his posse.
I enjoyed watching Hoodlum for the fact that it is well structured. The plot of the movie is streamlined around Naomi and Swaggito, with no unnecessary subplots we find in most movies. Naomi went to prison for a crime Swaggito committed when he killed a man for his cell phone. And now that she has served five years of the twenty years jail time, she comes back to the ghetto of Asadu; she wants to clean the neighborhood and gets rid of Swagitto and his gang. It’s not going to be easy, but she’s resolute and determined.
One other factor is the character motivation. Swaggito is made ashamed by Naomi’s affront and challenge to his ghetto authority. His posse assumes he’s giving in too much to a woman from nowhere, who’s about to take their empire by turning the neighbors and school children against them. They keep pumping Swaggito to do something about Naomi. In Naomi’s camp, the fact that hoodlums scorched her mother’s house is motivation enough to go after them, especially Swaggito. Then her friends, afraid of Swaggito, abandon her and she wants to prove to them that she can stand alone against the enemy. And lastly, Swagitto kills Babra, tries to pin it on Naomi, and her friends think she did it. She has no choice but to prove her innocence.
The location of this movie put so much truth in the story that you come to believe it as real: the filth, the slums, gutters running dirty, murky waters, abandoned buildings, clapboard shacks, shanty dwellings, lawlessness, drugs, prostitution, all give a realistic face to this raw ghetto story.
Another thing: the soundtrack: “We live out in the ghetto, life, and death so close…” The soundtrack here for Hoodlums is the one element that catches my reviewing sense. The use of soundtracks in films is the same as the chorus in either the Greek or Roman theaters back in the days. Sound and its effect acted as harbingers of incidents to come or commented on actions as they occur on the stage, or they just put on the audience to the story, in case they were bored, I mean to liven them up.
The soundtrack of this movie reminds me of A Sting In A Tale, the emblematic reggae music of the shanty town of Kingston, Jamaica. The basic rhythm and emotional responses of the track, enhance the effect of the story. I mean, the song complements and enhances the narrative. For instance, the first time Swagitto and his girl come out the door of the hovel, and the soundtrack:” We living out in the ghetto, life, and death so close…” comes on. The rhythmic variations of the soundtrack, in sequences and individual actions, match the theme of the movie. Now that epitomizes that we are there in squalor, where bad things happen as a way of life. The musical score here acts as the accurate reflection of both the characters in the film and the movements of the story. The musical score, is mated to the story told on screen, and both form a sublime artistic imagery, which you cannot tear apart. They both complement each other as in, A Sting In A Tale.
I should quote a line from one of Patience Ozorkor, (Mama G.) interviews: “Ghanians are magnificent at staging drama, ” she said. I vindicate her. Hoodlums, besides the squalor, has structure, and it tells a story, a beautiful narrative!