'Black November': Film Review

Black November Still - H 2015
Courtesy of E1 Entertainment Distribution

Black November Still - H 2015

The ugly Americans are the least interesting aspect of this well-meaning but ham-fisted drama

Jeta Amata's politically themed thriller depicts the devastating effects of corruption in oil-rich Nigeria

Don't be fooled by the names of Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger on the marquee. Despite the tantalizing prospect of a reunion of the stars of a certain '80s-era hit erotic drama, their minor presence is largely extraneous to the proceedings of Jeta Amata's overwrought and preachy thriller concerning the rampant corruption and political dysfunction plaguing oil-rich Nigeria. Despite its laudable intentions and important social message, Black November is far too ineffective to have the desired impact.

Rourke none too convincingly plays the CEO of a U.S. oil company who, along with several other Americans, is kidnapped in Los Angeles by Nigerian militants (and we're worried about North Korea!) who seek the release of a young Nigerian woman who has been jailed and sentenced to death for her part in leading a local uprising.

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A flashback taking up a good portion of the film's running time details how Ebiere (the filmmaker's wife, Mbong Amata, delivering an impressive turn) returns home to her Nigerian village after working in America for the same oil company and after a devastating gas pipe explosion is swept up in a violent campaign protesting the corruption of the local government in sway to big business interests.

Although the veteran Nollywood filmmaker displays a sure hand in the Nigerian-set sequences, which convey an arresting verisimilitude, he's far less effective in his awkward interweaving of the American principals who have very little to actually do. Besides Rourke and Basinger, they include Sarah Wayne Callies (The Walking Dead) as a television news reporter who baldly states her sympathy for the Nigerians; Vivica A. Fox as a stressed-out State Department official; Anne Heche in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo; and music stars Wyclef Jean and Akon, the latter also serving as an executive producer.

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Filled with declamatory speeches, stereotypical characters and heavily telegraphed, melodramatic plot developments, the film fails to work as either thriller or politically themed drama, although it's certainly to be commended for attempting to call attention to the plight of a country that, as we're informed during the opening credits, has the seventh-largest population in the world. Unfortunately, it will take a far stronger effort than Black November to provoke greater interest.

Production: Wells & Jeta Entertainment
Cast: Mbong Amata, Enyinna Nwigwe, Hakeem Kae-Kazim, Mickey Rourke, Kim Basinger, Sarah Wayne Callies, Vivica A. Fox, Anne Heche, Wyclef Jean, Akon
Director-screenwriter: Jeta Amata
Producers: Bernard Alexander, Jeta Amata, Ori Ayonmike, Marc Byers, Wilson Ebiye, Hakeem Kae-Kazim, Dede Mabiaku
Executive producers: Akon, Tunde Ayeni, Mark Canton, Hosa Okunbo, Idahosa Okunbo
Director of photography: James M. Costello   
Production designer: Anthony Stabley
Editor: Debbie Berman
Composer: Joel Christian Goffin
Casting: Lindsay Chag

No rating, 96 minutes