[With African action picture Viva Riva!
opening in limited release in the US tomorrow we revisit our earlier review.]
Set in modern day Kingshasa - capital of the Democratic Republic of
the Congo - gasoline is in short supply. Riva, wonderfully portrayed by
Patsha Bay, is a playboy and a grifter who arrives in town with a
truckload of gas he's recently swiped from a gang of Angolans. Riva
appears to be a smart, well-connected and charismatic guy who could be
on his way to the top if he can sell this stash, that is until he lays
eyes on Nora (Manie Malone) - the drop dead gorgeous girlfriend of a
local bandit - and determines to make her his own. Meanwhile, Cesar
(Hoji Fortuna), the particularly nasty Angolan from whom Riva stole the
gasoline, cuts a swathe through the Kingshasa
underworld in his attempts to hunt Riva down.
say that VIVA RIVA! is well-made considering its origins would be a
monumental disservice to all involved - the film is slick, sexy and
stylish by anybody's standards to the extent that it's almost
inconceivable that what you are watching is a first-time director at
work in a country that has produced nothing of this kind in its history.
The film is a gripping piece of film noir, brimming with sex, violence,
bloodshed and corruption. Our hero Riva is flawed yet likable, Nora is a
bewitching femme fatale any red-blooded male would step over their
dying grandmother just to get close to, the villains are genuinely
frightening and the corrupt officials even more so. To top it off, the
action takes place in the sweltering heat of Kingshasa - a city
throbbing with newfound wealth yet still reeling from an eternity spent
below the poverty line.
Ironically, the first
time Riva sees Nora it is when she ducks out of a party to urinate in
the bushes, only for it to become apparent she now resides in the upper
echelons of Congolese society. VIVA RIVA! takes its audience through the
squalor of the shanty towns into the mansions and nightclubs of the
city's wealthy elite, helping us understand the diversity of the city,
the gaping void between the haves and the have-nots and underpinning the
thirst for money that drives all these characters to risk their lives.
names Patsha Bay, Manie Malone and particularly Djo Tunda Wa Munga are
now front and centre on my radar and whatever any of them set their
sights on next is sure to be worth checking out. VIVA RIVA! boasts a seductive
combination of African mystique and hardboiled noir storytelling that makes for one seriously sexy crime flick.
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