The Black Book is like a grittier John Wick and it’s a smash hit on Netflix

The Black Book
(Image credit: Netflix)

If you're looking for a gritty, violent revenge drama that makes John Wick look like The Golden Girls, Netflix may have just the thing for you. The Black Book, one of the most expensive Nigerian movies ever made, is already a commercial smash for the world's best streaming service. It's the most-watched movie on Netflix South Korea and has been the second most-streamed film across South America for more than a week.

The film – not to be confused with the 2007 Black Book by Paul Verhoeven, a film the Guardian described as a "dire and overlong" melodrama about a "mainly topless resistance worker in occupied Holland" – comes from Nollywood, which is the centre of the Nigerian movie industry. It was created by Editi Efflong who, in typical Nollywood style, has had to rely more on ingenuity than cash: Nollywood movies are famously made on very tight budgets that would barely pay for the catering on Hollywood blockbusters. "The most expensive Nigerian movie ever made" still came in at $1 million – 1/100th of the reported budget for John Wick: Chapter 4.

The film stars veteran actor Richard "RMD" Mofe Damjio as a former military secret agent turned deacon whose child is framed and murdered by corrupt cops. You can probably guess what happens next. 

Is The Black Book worth watching?

It's definitely winning over lots of fans, and while the critic reviews aren't in yet – with the exception of Premium Times NG, which praised the cast and particularly Richard Mofe Damjio, who gets a bit of a backhanded compliment: "considering his age, his acting in the fight scenes is incredible." However the reviewer did feel that the core story was compromised by some too-early revelations that removed some of the suspense.

Decider calls it "the Nigerian hybrid of Taken and Spotlight you didn't know you needed" and identified what appears to be an identity crisis: the film is "always pitched between two very different ways a movie can be without committing to either", torn between being a character study of a man coming to terms with his violent past and acting as an allegory for the Nigerian nation. For Decider, it needs "a stronger sense of cohesion between plot and style."

Over on IMdB, PrincessENewbold was more enamoured but felt that the gunplay overshadowed the story: "it sometimes got muddled with all the shootouts," they write, although "overall it was a really good movie with a cast of heavyweights lead by RMD, beautiful cinematography and a plausible premise."

The Black Book is streaming now on Netflix.

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Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now and her next book, about pop music, is out in 2025. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band Unquiet Mind.