Riva is a small time operator who has just returned to his hometown of Kinshasa, Congo after a decade away with a major score: a fortune in hijacked gasoline. Wads of cash in hand and out for a good time, Riva is soon entranced by beautiful night club denizen Nora, the kept woman of a local gangster. Into the mix comes an Angolan crime lord relentlessly seeking the return of his stolen shipment of gasoline. Director Djo Tunda Wa Munga s Kinshasa is a seductively vibrant, lawless, fuel-starved sprawl of shantytowns, gated villas, bordellos and nightclubs and Riva is its perfect embodiment.
Viva Riva! FOUR STARS After a ten-year absence, prodigal hood Riva (Mukana) returns home to Kinshasa, Congo s capital city, flush with cash and stolen barrels of petrol. Poised to make a killing on the scarce commodity, he s distracted by an even rarer prize the ripe redhead Nora (Malone), who s the insouciant arm candy of a local thug. Stealing Nora turns out to be a cinch compared with dodging a trio of angry Angolan heavies, led by dapper don Cesar (Fortuna), who ll spare no expense nor lives to get their gas back. The first major motion picture to come out of Congo in decades happens to be one of the best neonoirs from anywhere in recent memory. Mukana s hedonistic Riva is a fascinating antihero, thrilling to watch but impossible to love, while Malone s femme fatale perfectly mixes sauciness with soulfulness. Rather than saddle the film with political portent, first-timer Djo Munga holds fast to the rules of the genre, slipping in symbolism through the back door. It s a world without innocents, where soldiers shake down civilians, priests extort gangsters, and everyone has a price. Munga s restrained, surprisingly mature visual style actually deepens the impact of Viva s swift turns to brutality, and his taste for rampant kinky sex cunnilingus through a gated window is the film s idea of a first date is a genuine turn-on. Más Riva, please. --Eric Hynes, TimeOut New York