Genre: Action/Crime Drama
Year Released: 2018
Distributor: Tchoua Productions
Running Time: 13 minutes
Rating/Recommended Audience: 13+
Related Films/Series: N/A
For Fans Of: Corruption, Lethal Weapon, Blue Bloods, Blood Diamond, No One, Where There’s Smoke, Chase
-This short film is streaming on YouTube.
-Spoilers will be mentioned in this review. Read at your own peril.
-This is the directorial debut of Gabonese filmmaker Jeremie Tchoua.
-The film takes place in Gabon’s capital and largest city Libreville. It has over 700k+ people living there. Some of the most famous people from that city involve Olympic silver medalist taekwondo fighter Anthony Obame, soccer player Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (known for his work in the Arsenal team), and Miami Heat basketball player Chris Silva. There’s also a hilarious in hindsight aspect to this city when you consider that the name literally means “free town” in French and there’s a major African city with that same name (Freetown) which is the capital of Sierra Leone. Major props to Dr. Y. for that African geography fact!
I got to achieve one aspect of my 2020 reviewing goals. This involves covering five African nations that had no representation before on my blog. One country that I felt compelled to research it’s cinema is the small central African nation of Gabon. This country has actually gotten a bit of mainstream press over the past few months mainly because of two celebrities getting involved with this locale. The most recent example is the rapper/actor Ludacris who just got Gabonese citizenship. One reason was because his wife is originally from that nation which certainly helped. Another example that happened before actually involves a big name actor who has been featured on this blog: Samuel L. Jackson (see my review of I Am Not Your Negro). This case has an even bigger connection not just because he’s going to film a docuseries about the Transatlantic slave trade there, but he also received Gabonese citizenship much like the aforementioned Fast and the Furious star. The reasoning is even more intriguing because Jackson found out via a DNA test that he’s of Gabonese descent through the Benga tribe. Yes, Nick Fury himself is the most famous Gabonese man on the planet. I hope you appreciate that information about these celebrities.
Next came my first experience involving a movie from The Concord of Africa.
Operation Nguende takes place in the aftermath of stopping some major drug smuggling. The Gabonese and French police forces worked together to stop a trap ring in Libreville by arresting one of the masterminds Mr. Ngomo. However, there are still people in his gang on the lookout. Gabonese policeman Inspector Okome and his French partner Inspector Rosier are on the case to find out about the rest of the gang. In the safehouse where the two are currently staying, Okome was away on the local beaches while Rosier manages to get captured by Ngomo’s men. His right-hand man known as The Butcher has her hostage and it’s up to her African buddy cop to bust her out and to fight against Ngomo’s henchmen.
One thing that struck me was how well the camera work was. While it’s not at Hollywood level, it was still quite impressive with the action scenes, camera clarity, and even the green screen effects with the news footage was well-integrated as it felt like I briefly watched a TV program. The fights were well choreographed and certainly felt intense whether they were fist-fights or gunfights. I did think one aspect of the plot was intriguing how it starts after the main villain got arrested and self-explanatory to get to the thick of the story in record time. I didn’t have that much of an issue with this. The score choice was an interesting one with some French-language rap music and a brief instance of dramatic acoustic music with downtuned guitars which did add a bit of drama which was an unlikely, yet decent choice. I do have to give props for making Okome a competent character as he is efficient at his job, but also has a bit of a devil may care attitude at first. That was a good touch with that lead character.
Operation Nguende does get botched multiple times. I thought the sound design of the fights (mainly the gunshots) felt hollow and incongruous. The Butcher was built up to be this sadistic villain, but I thought Okome had a much easier time beating him than what he did with the masked gangsters who fought him which didn’t do any favors. Speaking of The Butcher, him eating the meat and planning on killing Rosier with his cleavers was way too creepy and adds an unfortunate implication if what was implied was going to happen. The English subtitles had typos and the dialogue felt really basic more often than not. My biggest issue with Operation Nguende was that it uses a MAJOR unfortunate trope for the plot to work: Missing white woman syndrome. Sure, Rosier was able to fight back before getting captured, but this is the worst kind of damsel in distress plot and the fact it involves an African gang really doesn’t do this movie any favors. This only reinforces the stereotype that black men are all thugs (no, the existence of Okome isn’t carte blanche and the director should know better) and that people should drop everything to save this woman because of her race. They don’t explicitly say that, but the imagery is all there. If this happened in real life, this would make headlines worldwide and if the races were reversed with the cops, it would lead to white man’s burden which doesn’t help. I’m not against heroes and heroines getting captured on principle if it works for the plot, but the context and implications around this search and rescue plot point left a horrible taste in my mouth especially looking at all the angles. They would’ve never made The Butcher like this even if it was Hannibal Lector in his position (now you know the horrific implications of Operation Nguende’s villain given that it takes place in Africa. Do the math.).
This Gabonese film did have some good action and had potential, but there were things working against it that prevented me from giving this a recommendation. The cinematography and background music were highlights, but the plot became very problematic once Rosier got kidnapped. This movie will reinforce negative imagery about Africa even with some of the scenic B-roll footage of Libreville in a few points of the movie. Operation Nguende didn’t work for me.
Adjustable Rating System:
Add 1-2 points if you like buddy cop action flicks.
Subtract 1-2 points if you don’t like damsel in distress moments .
-Okome is a competent lead character
-Nice choreography with the fight scenes
-Missing white female syndrome on full display
-Mediocre sound effects/sound design
-African thuggery stereotypes
Final Score: 4/10 points
Content Warning: Operation Nguende would get a PG-13. The fights get bloody and some henchmen die. Part of the plot involves drug trafficking. Although it isn’t shown, the news report narrates about cocaine smuggling let alone other forms of general trapping going on. The Butcher may or may not be a cannibal when he talks about his “meat business” and how the locals think his products are pork or beef. It really doesn’t help that he’s eating in front of her and threatens to kill her with his cleavers. There’s also a couple instances of swearing.
All photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws. Operation Nguende is property of Tchoua Productions. The screenshots are from YouTube and are property of Tchoua Productions.