I was kind of itching to see this film in 2013 because I was looking forward to seeing how Shirley would handle a straightforward crime thriller but having seen it, I can’t say the end product makes for thrilling viewing.
Potomanto, directed by Shirley Frimpong-Manso, stars Adjetey Anang, Olu Jacobs, Yvonne Okoro in a film that narrows on an ex-police officer who makes a living exposing infidelity for distrustful spouses in modern-day Accra. The proverbial hits the fan when on the job; he stumbles into an illegal organ harvesting ring.
The plot focuses on Adane (Annang), a man with a somewhat wooden persona and an apparent hurting past who decides to get his own back, in somewhat twisted fashion I might add, by employing his police skills and seeming talent for photography to catch women who cheat on their men. (I found it interesting that only men seemed to do the hiring). He is hired by Bankole (Jacobs), an aged Nigerian ice cream magnate who wants his fiancé checked out before his marriage to here. Susan (Marrie Humbert), Bankole’s fiancée, is young, alluring and you heard it here first, a future Bond girl. It’s a mismatch if I ever saw one.
The cliché of the main man breaking one of his cardinal rules makes an unwelcome appearance. Adane never meets with clients (why? I don’t know) and always works with a middleman but decides to break this rule in meeting with Bankole (again why?). The film lags early on and maybe we are given a tad too much of our protagonist’s life; yes he has issues with women, yes he has a perverse collection of infidelity pictures and yes he’ll definitely die of lung cancer because he’s a thoughtless smoker but was all that going anywhere in the general scheme of things? I didn’t think so.
Things pick up in the second act when he finds himself in the thick of things and he does discover that Susan, again the future Bond girl, is acting kind of shady and just maybe there are some skeletons in the closet. Elsewhere, a couple of bodies turn up and soon it becomes apparent that the pursuit of greener pastures is fuelling an illegal organ harvesting trade. What follows is a contrived game of hide and seek and culminates in a largely underwhelming climax that is over almost as soon as it begins. I wasn’t expecting an elaborate set piece, not after THAT disastrously edited fight scene, but a decent payoff for the time put in was the least I was asking for but no, that did not happen.
For glaring its faults, the film still has a solid base in the idea embodied by the word Potomanto which is actually an evolved version of the French word Portmanteau which means, large suitcase #themoreyouknow. This served as an effective symbol for the want of a better life and hope for greener pastures that so many Ghanaians seek.
In that regard, we see two characters, very different but viewed in somewhat the same way by people in the film. First, there is the British coach, Jareth (Jason Ngowa) with a passion for kids and football and there is no doubt that his heart is in the right place. He represents an all too familiar gateway out of the country for young poverty-stricken kids, football. His kids train with him with the hope of scouting exposure and an eye placed firmly on their utopia.
We also get the “Potomanto man” aptly portrayed by Micky Osei Berko who for me was, for large chunks, consistently the best thing in the film. Osei-Berko has a demeanor coated in a persuasive swagger that has desperate hustlers offering their soul to him on a silver platter. The film fails to give us a substantive viewpoint of the trade from a victim’s perspective and I felt that that would have given the central issue some more depth and would have undoubtedly made the story more engaging.
Despite the crime narrative, I found interesting that Shirley’s sensibilities were filtering through considering her past work. The film somewhat speaks to the relationships we have in equal measure. I felt like the paranoia surrounding the film was largely love based with the central plot sometimes playing second fiddle. Our main character has had his heart broken before and makes his bread and butter catching adulterous partners whilst In the heat of events, our antagonist is visibly blinded from more potent threats by his suspicions of infidelity.
All in all, I really wanted to like this film. The central performances are okay and Shirley gets the supporting cast to match up and it has a solid crust which is tackled with reasonable nous but for a film that is essentially a crime thriller, it is not, well, thrilling enough. There’s a good film in there and I would have liked to have seen a film solely about the Potomanto man. The director hasn’t so much as dropped the ball as she is playing in a new game.