In 1999, “Chain Reaction,” a Nollywood movie by Ndubuisi Okoh, was released. Nearly two decades later, its greatness still lies in its simple story; one which still resonates today.
Also popular for its gloomy soundtrack – performed by Stanley Okorie – which preaches that “in this world, you reap what you sow,” the movie boasts a potent cast that includes Pete Edochie, Liz Benson, Onyeka Onwenu, Rita Edochie, Tom Njemanze, Pete Ene, Chinedu Ikedieze, Klint Da Drunk, Ernest Asuzu and Chika Anyanwu.
What is “Chain Reaction” about?
“Chain Reaction” tells the story of Eucharia, who has been married to Ugochukwu for over 40 years. She is the oldest wife in a compound that is also home to her husband’s brothers – Athan and Samuel – and their wives – Victoria and Ijeoma.
Eucharia is a power-hungry bully, who doesn’t miss any opportunity to remind her sisters-in-law of her supremacy. “Have you forgotten that I was present when they came to pay your bride price?” she would say with so much disdain on her face.
We are introduced to her in the first scene which sees her harassing Ijeoma (Rita Edochie) for not sweeping the compound. She then proceeds to Victoria’s to ask why she’s farming on the family land. Victoria reminds her that the land has been in the family for generations, and it’s not exclusive to anyone.
When Victoria doesn’t heed her warning to stay away from the farm, Eucharia gathers her daughters to the farm and attacks the former and her children.
While Victoria and Ijeoma’s children are doing well, Eucharia’s daughters are, according to her husband, ‘dancing disco,’ and her sons – Anselem and Emeka – drinking to stupor and failing UTME, respectively.
To make matters ‘worse’ for her, she doesn’t have her husband’s support in her quest for power. He says ‘no one would come between him and his brothers.’
So she visits a spiritualist, who gives her a charm, which, when used in small portions, would get her husband to obey her. But Victoria wants more, so she pours the whole substance into his favourite meal; bushmeat.
Ugo doesn’t just become obedient, he becomes so obsessed with her that he refuses to return to his business in Port Harcourt city, even after she commands him to do so.
Before the credit rolls, Eucharia successfully commits atrocities such as poisoning Athan and his son, Chuka; arresting some of the elders in the village, and selling the family land.
After she loses her husband, gets disowned by the village women, loses Emeka – who somewhere along the line gets himself involved in money ritual – to madness, Eucharia decides to commit suicide.
But of course, in a typical old Nollywood style, not before a sad monologue about regret and forgiveness.
In “Chain Reaction,” Liz Benson, who has, over the years, played important roles in what are now considered some of the best films ever made – “True Confession,” “Glamour Girls,” “Diamond Ring,” “Evil Men – is Eucharia, the oldest wife in the family. In “Chain Reaction,” she is exceptional, delivering a thoughtfully crafted performance.
As Victoria, Anthan’s wife, Onyeka Onwenu is a blend of fierce and gentle in how she responds to being the target of Eucharia’s cruelty.
There’s something in the way she carries herself, communicating her strength and weakness with glances or gestures.
Ernest Asuzu’s performance as an irresponsible man, who struggles to succeed and eventually, after he does, has to deal with the consequences of disobeying a herbalist, is probably one of his best work ever.
A smart sense of humour is displayed in Klint Da Drunk’s Anselem. He blames his mom for his lifestyle. According to him, she didn’t let him marry the woman he wanted or do the job he wanted.
One of the memorable lines and scene in “Chain Reaction” is when Anselem, in his usual drunken state, decides to leave his family house.
His mom tries to stop him, asking who would take care of her and bury his late father. He replies: “When you went to the herbalist to get a charm for him [Ugo] to be your obedient servant, did you consult me?”
What makes “Chain Reaction” so relatable
Set in a village, a movie about good vs. evil would always resonate with most Nigerians who believe in the existence of evil forces and that children can suffer for the actions of an ancestor.
In “Chain Reaction,” most viewers would see themselves or a story they’ve heard or read about a ‘wicked’ relative in the village, who doesn’t want the success of the younger generation, reflected on the screen.
I9 years later, despite some limitations, “Chain Reaction” is still an eminently watchable movie.