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Woman King, The  (DVD)


Stars: Viola Davis, Thuso Mbedu, Lashana Lynch, Sheila Atim, John Boyega, Jordan Bolger, Hero Fiennes Tiffin, Jimmy Idukoya, Jayme Lawson

Director: Gina Prince-Bythewood

Here's something a bit different and rattlingly directed by Prince-Bythewood, whose battle scenes, red in tooth and claw, are most convincing.

It's Dahomey (now part of Benin), West Africa, in 1823, and the local king (Boyega), opposed to the profitable slave trade, is threatened by marauding soldiers of the Oyo Empire, who intend taking control of his kingdom and its trading resources, including palm oil and gold.

Among those protecting the king is an enclave of fearsome women warriors led by General Nanisca (Davis). Into this setting comes 19-year-old Nawi (South African actress Mbedu, who's 31 but looks about 13), an adopted orphan who has rejected the middle-aged 'husband' selected by her foster-parents, and been thrown into the warriors' camp.

Davis, Mbedu and the sweat-soaked amazon warriors go at the action with a will, even with Nawi sidetracked by the attentions of a Portuguese trader (Bolger), who awakens her latent sexuality, with Nanisca warning her she will be cut out of the 'army' if she consorts with a man.

Comes a thrilling final battle, and Nawi and others are captured by their enemies and face being shipped overseas as slaves.

But for its setting and feminist theme, this could almost be a throwback to Hollywood adventure films of old, if a little more aware of the social issues involved. Like those, its dialogue is occasionally clunky, but the ferocious pace and full-throttle performances see it through.

David Quinlan

USA/Ireland/South Africa 2022. UK Distributor: EntertainmentOne (Sony/TriStar). Colour by Company 3 .
129 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 31 Jan 2023