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Nollywood Premiere: Games Men Play
By Olayinka Fadahunsi
Games Men Play (2006)
Director: Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen

Screenwriter Emem Isong and director Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen have struck collaborative gold with their various Nollywood productions over the years, as they crank out popular melodramas that revolve around the challenges of romance and infidelity in modern Nigeria. Games Men Play, a sequel of sorts to the duo's highly successful 2005 Nollywood blockbuster Games Women Play, sticks to their market-tested formula, delivering a collection of salacious sub-plots to match the glitzy sets and glamorous costumes.

As the title suggests, the movie focuses on indiscretions among several affluent Lagosian couples, portrayed by an all-star cast of current Nollywood headliners. Included in this group are successful television talk show host Abby (Monalisa Chindu); her hustler boyfriend Richmond (Michael Ezuruonye) and his greedy woman on the side (Ini Edo); a housewife with a painful past (Chioma Chukwuka) and her husband (Bob-Manuel Udokwu), tortured by his own shameful secret; and another housewife (Uche Jombo) struggling with a wealthy, philandering husband (Jim Iyke) and his ever more demanding mistress (Dakore Egbuson).

Kate Henshaw Nuttal(pictured), playing Tara, is a producer on the afore-mentioned television show that is facing her own romantic travails with her Internet boyfriend. She narrates these intertwined tales to the audience. The premise of the movie rests on Nuttal's discovery of these various romantic problems while researching a segment of the television show. A framing device that was meant to tie the sundry story lines together, the idea of Nuttal's research into relationship difficulties feels like an after-thought in many of the scenes, and barely has any impact on any of the narratives in the movie.

Despite these limits, Nuttal does her best with the role, making her character lively without becoming a caricature. Jim Iyke, unusually subdued in his role as an adulterous husband, matches Nuttal's performance on the male side, a far cry from his usually typecasting. Uche Jombo also turns in a commendable performance as his long-suffering, heavily pregnant wife who confronts him on his cheating, driving Iyke into a period of self-examination.

The movie may have benefited from a tighter focus on those characters and their travails, as some of the other plotlines seemed overly contrived in comparison. In particular, Chioma Chukwuka and Bob-Manuel Udokwu's characters are entrapped in a highly unrealistic plotline, and many of their scenes seem to be a waste of the talents of both actors.

The same can be said of Michael Ezuruonye and Ini Edo, who are both unable to make their respective characters believable. Their scenes together devolve into exaggerated yelling and domestic abuse. Her relatively brief scenes in the movie may disappoint fans of Dakore Egbuson, but while on screen she embodies the combination of jealousy, guilt, and confusion that plagues her character as Jim Iyke's mistress.

Games Men Play is not subtle in making its points in favor of honesty in marriages and relationships, and its large cast of characters and convoluted web of storylines may not appeal to everyone. As an example of Nollywood's lucrative 'urban romance' segment though, it will appeal to Nigerian video-lovers across the globe. It also serves as a great introduction to the sector to new viewers who aren't expecting too much in the way of depth. Fans of the Isong/Imasuen production formula will be happy to see that they haven't lost a step with their latest offering.