My first name is of French origin and originally meant “fame” and “spear,” which…fits.
But “Roger” has so many other meanings, fun and more fun. It’s radio parlance for “affirmative,” which has an interesting WWII etymology. Then there’s the slangy, sexual organ/sex-act twists the Brits gave it.
Today’s “Around the World with Netflix” title opens by letting the world know what it can mean in Nigeria. A “roger” is a bribe, which inspires the obvious piratical title “Jolly Roger.”
The film is something of a non-starter, a tepid domestic melodrama married to a hostage thriller involving bribe-happy cops and one guy who plots his revenge. But it’s a short trip to a distant culture, even if that culture is barely sampled here.
Our narrator tells us that the human “brain functions for 15 minutes — maybe it was 50 — after death.” So that’s how much time he has to tell this 88 minute tale.
We’re treated to the shakedowns that two corrupt Nigerian policemen (Toyin Oshinaike and Frank Donga) run, traffic stops where they climb into the car with you for threats, a search for signs the driver is an “internet fraudster.” They don’t ask for ID. They go straight for “Where is your LAPTOP?”
And you thought everybody was in on the Nigerian prince email scam.
As is the way of things, the nicer the car, the bigger the bribe.
Flashbacks show us a love affair between Brume (Daniel Etim Effiong) and Najite (Toni Tones). It began six years before, and as events in the present progress towards one shakedown that ends up with the cops in cages, we see how that romance and marriage was impacted by these goons with badges.
Officer Felix and Officer Yaw wake up stripped, tased and taunted by two captors, one of whom is particularly enraged and on task. That’s Brume.
“Your chickens have come home to roost,” he crows. But there is no delight in this. This is about revenge.
His accomplice (Deyemi Okanlawon) may be “the weak link,” according to older officer Yaw (Donga). But how can they parlay that into a get away, a turning of the tables?
The acting has a stiff, starchy nature which is a characteristic of a lot of Nollywood films in English. That adds to the general lackluster pacing, characters carefully choosing and enunciating words in scene after scene, too many of those scenes dramatically flat.
The hostage situation has an inherent tension, but it’s never less than predictable, never more than lukewarm. The domestic scenes — mother-in-law problems and efforts to get pregnant — are soap operatic in the extreme.
There’s nothing here most of the world hasn’t seen before, and done better. But “Jolly Roger” gives us a tiny taste of Nigerian life, a culture in which even its affluent professionals are at the mercy of armed, state-sponsored shakedown artists with badges.
Rating: TV-MA, violence, profanity
Cast: Daniel Etim Effiong, Toni Tones, Deyemi Okanlawon, Toyin Oshinaike and Frank Donga.
Credits Directed by Walter Waltbanger” Taylaur scripted by Tunde Apalowo. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:28