We are in Bissau, Guinea-Bissau in 2003 with the legendary Bangui’s Hyenas, a trio of guns-for-hire who have just taken possession of a suitcase full of gold, some drugs and a Mexican wanted by a cartel.
The military has declared a coup d’etat targeting the international drug trade, though it looks more like a bloodbath as they slaughter anyone they think may be involved, and many who aren’t.
Our trio: Rafa Rufin, Roger Sallah (“Renaissance (TV)”, “Big Five (TV)”), Minuit Maudou, Mentor Ba (“Golden (TV)”, “Xalé Bu Rérr (Short)”), and their leader Chaka Cheikh, Yann Gael (“Sakho & Mangane (TV)”, “Loro”), have an escape plan that involves a plane, the Mexican Felix Felipe, Renaud Farah (“ZeroZeroZero (TV)”, “Sakho & Mangane (TV)”), and Dakar.
As they are taking off the military shoot their plane and the gang are forced to land early as they’re leaking fuel. Chaka tells them to ditch in Senegal, he knows a place. They land, hide the plane, discover it was sabotaged before they even left, and head for the Baobab Camp in the Saloum Delta.
The camp is run by Omar, Bruno Henry (“Labor Day”, “Djoli”), a jolly man who tells them that guests pay what they think is right but are expected to help out with the running of the facility in exchange for their accommodation and food.
The gang settle in, meeting the other guests which include Awa, Evelyne Ily Juhen (“Cacao (TV)”), a deaf, mute, a former couple who work together and then a Captain from the police arrives Souleymane, Ndiaga Mbow (“Sakho & Mangane (TV)”, “Angel”). There’s also Salamane, Babacar Oualy (“Sakho & Mangane (TV)”, “The Pirogue”), Omar’s right hand man.
Over dinner Chaka, using sign language, asks Awa for her story, she signs back he won’t like the script as it involves mercenaries, gold and a Mexican. She knows who they are and she wants to go with them or she’ll spill the beans to everyone. The trio, who can all sign, aren’t keen and Rafa and Minuit want to leave, now, but Chaka convinces them to stick to the plan.
In the morning they all leave, in pairs, for their jobs and Felix winds up with Souleymane who reveals he knows who he is and who he’s travelling with. There’s a raid coming up at dinner and Felix is going to help him catch the Hyenas.
Throughout the movie Chaka has flashbacks to his childhood. He’s shackled in what looks like a cow-shed. He escapes, running to the river, a gun in his hand.
When it transpires that there is a reason they are at this particular camp, that revenge is on the cards and is taken, things take a supernatural twist. The deceased was acting as a sort of guardian and Salamane talks in panic about Sira Bana, they will force you to hear their call and begin taking your senses until you are dead.
Moving shadows begin attacking as our trio need to get into town for the supplies for their plane before getting the hell out of dodge. Will they make it? What price will revenge take?
Saloum is from director Jean Luc Herbulot (“Sakho & Mangane (TV)”, “Dealer”) who co-writes alongside Pamela Diop. It’s a tremendous movie, Herbulot capturing the beauty of this region with vast, panoramic drone shots.
The start is very Tarantino-esq as the story is unveiled, there’s also some lovely humorous touches throughout that are welcome. This lessens once we’re in the camp and the story unfolds in front of us.
Our trio are excellent throughout, kudos to the casting and costume departments as they marry our guys up perfectly, an almost A-Team feel to them at times, but they ain’t no fools.
The effects are great, the music is perfect, a mix of eerie and pounding beats. My only gripe would be I didn’t get along with the ending so much, though I think this may have been because I was so invested in the characters, so perhaps it wasn’t so bad.
If you get the chance, I would thoroughly recommend you see Saloum. Part Western, part Tarantino gangster-esq flick, part horror, what more could you want?
30th August 2022
Jean Luc Herbulot
THE QUICK SELL
2003, three mercenaries extracting a druglord out of Guinea-Bissau are forced to hide in the mystical region of Saloum, Senegal.