Not to be confused with the 2010 Hollywood comedy starring Tina Fey and Steve Carell, or last year’s Mercy Aigbe production airing on iRoko TV, Date Night is a would be intriguing enough take on genre filmmaking directed by Daniel Oriahi (Taxi Driver: Oko Ashewo,) one of the most prominent- and prolific- directors working today.
Starring newlywed Adesua Etomi and Deyemi Okanlawon, both in change of pace roles, DateNight is a paranoid thriller about a dinner date gone horribly wrong. Produced by Chidiogo Enwegbara, Date Night considers male-female relationships especially in the age of social media and does its bit to comment on some of the hostile elements that lie in wait for single women dating in the big city.
Girl meets boy. Scratch that, girl hunts boy down, they go out on a dinner date where it soon becomes obvious from girl’s shifty demeanor that something is up. Girl invites herself over to spend the night, boy is happy to give in without any form resistance.
At home boy serves wine, and idle chatter. Girl heads straight to the point and spikes boy’s drink. Shortly after, boy is lying down, tied to his dining table. It is only the beginning of a long, rough and dangerous night
Flipping the script just a bit, Date Night cedes some power and agency- a lot actually- to the woman. In the era of #MeToo and #TimesUp, the female lead, Lota, played by Etomi is no shrinking violet, but a conniving wench who gives as good as she gets. It is psychopath vs psychopath and if the situation of their meeting were different, both leads would actually be equal partners, romantic or professional, it doesn’t really matter.
Writing a powerful female anti-heroine is all very welcome but Date Night soon gets muddled up in its sexual politics, leading to plot holes, questionable decisions and godawful clichés. It is hard to accept for instance that Etomi’s character no matter how agile or fast thinking, would successfully hold Okanlawon’s hostage for a reasonable length of time with merely a pen knife. She probably could but the film and actors do not make a convincing case.
The screenplay also has Lota avert an almost certain trauma by conveniently injecting her foe right off the bat, with some form of nerve and muscle relaxant. None of these twists appear in the slightest way credible. All have been set up to give the heroine the upper hand.
Aside being the more interesting of the two players, Lota has a more compelling reason to act the way she does. Her sister has been missing for a while and she has traced her to the lair of Okanlawon’s Femi, an unassuming Greek mythology nerd hiding a twisted lust for blood. Lota is on the hunt for her sister, but she also wants closure, and revenge if she can get it.
The screenplay written by Kehinde Joseph tries to suggest both Lota and Femi are equal parts disturbed personalities who meet their match in one another. Hence layers and layers of unnecessary dialogue are written in to keep them busy. But the writing isn’t nearly as smart as it thinks it is and sitting through the film makes for plenty of exasperating moments. These two people are trying to kill each other. Just get on with it and leave them to do exactly that. The twists thrown in are pretty embarrassing, the story is a bore and the actors, especially Okanlawon are never believable in their roles. By the time it arrives at its overdue ending, only shrugs are elicited.
Date Night gets scores only for effort. In this case however, effort isn’t enough.