Somewhere in the opening shot of The Assassin’s Practice there is a woman crying alone in bed, tangled in a blue room. If the sound of her racking sobs is enough to turn your stomach, you won’t be able to handle all of the sudden hysterical plot twists or the unpredictable side stories that fuel Andrew Okoko’s latest thriller. The Assassin’s Practice runs the overwrought, low-budget excess of Nollywood off the rails. 

It starts out innocently enough; a respected stockbroker, secretly failed gambler, and desperate family man puts in motion an elaborate plot to kill himself, and make his own death look like a violent crime, so that his second wife and bratty daughter can keep up their lavish living on his life insurance policy.

Then you begin to notice that Okoko has tampered with the tempo of melodrama. Skeletons and confessions come out faster than they can develop intrigue. Clever dialogue winks at us, and the talented Kate Henshaw takes a backseat to static shots to announce, “I hate clichés.”

Consider this a response to Steven Soderbergh’s masterful Bubble. Okoko’s Assassin movie cuts prepared emotional responses off short; asks the audience hard questions about artifice, fidelity, and the anxieties that are true-to-life; and keeps one eye on its own charm.

Although its wit can seem a bit smug, the film is strengthened by its honest discussion of the uncertain loyalties of pop culture. Our sense of place “in Largos” is exposed as a series of clichéd images. A mysteriously glamorous London beckons, and the daughter announces she won’t go on safari with her father’s second wife because, “there’s no telling you’ll do with my passport.”

* Africa is a Country is a media partner of Film Africa, the UK’s largest annual festival of African cinema and culture (starting in November 2012 for 10 days showing 70 African films) in London. The Assassin’s Practice screens Sun, 4 November 2012, 8:45pmHackney Picturehouse.